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Sunday, Apr. 19, 2015

The memories just keep adding up

Posted Wednesday, March 14, 2012, at 11:39 AM

White River Valley Lady Wolverines head coach A.J. Graves guided his team through the second step of a rebuilding process. It was one of several positive things that happened during the recently concluded girls basketball season. Above, Graves addresses his team during a timeout this year. (By Rick Curl/Greene County Daily World).
Well another winter sports season is behind us and the promise of warm days and cool nights are upon us spring looms in the very close future.

That reminds me that its probably time to reflect on what has transpired over the course of the aforementioned season and what I will take with me into the next.

While I don't normally keep track of them, there are a few small things that come to mind as I reflect on the past girls basketball season.

The desire to succeed and win by a team that by all rights could have packed up their tents and went home -- and this is something that seems to transend all seasons without boundaries from one team or athlete or another -- the Linton-Stockton Lady Miners.

With just one player with any kind of varsity experience, the Lady Miners chugged their way through an obvious tough season.

They could have just went through the motions and settled for a winless year. But they didn't.

Instead they used the lumps and bumps that came their way to make them better and for that I applaud them.

Tied in with that same thought is the toll the season could have -- and probably did on coach Brad McKinney.

He could have said this is one that we're going to chuck and not think about in the future, but again, he didn't.

Instead he used the year as a blackboard for the future and for a testing time. He used the dismal results on the scoreboard to lay the foundation for what will surely be one of the areas best teams in the not so distant future.

This winter also gave me the opportunity to see what the second step of the growing process looked like for one team -- a position that ties in with what I just discussed.

For the White River Valley Lady Wolverines this was the second step in a rebuilding process for both the team and its coach.

As the Lady Wolverines stepped onto the court this year it was almost as if no one really knew what to expect outside the fold.

What they got was a team that was dramatically improved and showed heart, determination and just plain guts as the season moved forward.

They showed that the second step in a rebuilding process doesn't necessarily have to be taken backwards.

WRV found its identity on a small scale with plenty of room for growing.

At the same time it gave their second year coach A.J. Graves a chance to prove his worth as well.

I believe he did that with just as much heart and intensity as did his team. Graves took a giant stride out of the shadows of both his past as a player at WRV and from the shadow cast by his predecessor Joe Pigg.

In both cases Graves proved he was ready to be a coach and not just a familiar face to put butts in the seats at Switz City.

In his own way he shows that he can take the lessons he learned at all levels of the sport and translate them so a group of girls with heart can make the best of them.

From within that same cluster of thoughts came a new star on the horizon. And it just happened to come from WRV as well.

I remember at the preseason team photo session there was this young lady that seemed like she was comfortable with her surroundings, but yet seemed like she was waiting to make a statement quietly.

What it turned out to be was a freshman kicking it up a notch and using the lessons to her advantage.

I don't know what kind of student she is -- a pretty good one I would guess -- but for Allison Wininger of the Lady Wolverines, the season turned out to be a whole lot more than just her freshman season.

Wininger finished the year leading the Lady Wolverines in scoring with an 11.0 ppg average. She led the team in field attempts and was their leading rebounder per game at 4.0.

She handled the ball with both finess and strength and left a lasting impression on opponents.

Another individual who stands out in my mind is a mild-mannered player for Benji Boyd's Union Lady Bulldogs.

Hallie Smith just completed her sophomore year with as much confidence and grace as if she had been playing for Boyd and the Lady Bulldogs for five years.

She ended the season scoring a total of 203 points and averaged 10.7 ppg. She was the go-to player for Boyd and was the visible floor leader in a year that senior Cheyenne Goodman spent a lot of time fighting off injury.

She was just as big a leader on the court as Goodman, who carried the mantle very well and has given it to someone who can take it with pride, skill and determination.

Goodman is another point of reference I'll have for this year as well. She could've been one to just pack it in and go home after injuries kept her from being the high scoring outside threat that she has been the last three years.

Instead she continued to be the leader both on and off the floor and the bubbly, yet serious enough girl that every coach wishes he had 10 more of on the bench.

I'm sure there are more things that would stand out if I went back into my memory banks far enough. But I think this will do for now at least.

Rick is a sports writer for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487 ext. 20. He can also be reached by email at rcurl@gcdailyworld.com.

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