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Bond around the ball

Girls varsity basketball team learns through adversity that victories of the spirit are more important than victories on the scoreboard

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Bond around the ball

Coach Campbell rallies the troops during a timeout at Lanier, Photo by Selena De Jesus.

Coach Campbell rallies the troops during a timeout at Lanier, Photo by Selena De Jesus.

Selena De Jesus

Coach Campbell rallies the troops during a timeout at Lanier, Photo by Selena De Jesus.

Selena De Jesus

Selena De Jesus

Coach Campbell rallies the troops during a timeout at Lanier, Photo by Selena De Jesus.

By Grace Nugent and Anna Schlett, McCallum High School

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It’s easy to show up and play when your team is obliterating the opposition. In that respect, the 2017 Mac football team had it easy, enjoying a record-breaking season, in which the team reeled off 14 straight victories before finally losing a game, just one win shy of playing for a state championship.

The road for the 2018-2019 Mac girls varsity basketball team has been much harder to travel: 24 games, three wins and 21 losses.

But through the shared adversity of a losing season, the team has built something much more enduring for themselves than a record-breaking season. Final scores may fade, but the team bond the girls basketball team has forged through adversity will last as long as these players are alive.

Selena De Jesus
The team retreats to regroup in the locker room to regroup during a tough night at Dripping Springs. Photo by Selena De Jesus.

Basketball is a love interest. It’s time-consuming, hard but also very rewarding.

“You can’t be sad when the ball hits the net,” said Natalie Suri, a sophomore guard on the team. “It’s just the feeling, the exhilaration of playing.”

The season is long, beginning in November and running all the way until the beginning of February, but the girls’ relationship with the sport is much longer than a single season.

You never know what kind of comeback you could have. I just keep trying because you never know.”

— sophomore Natalie Suri

Many of the girls on the team have been playing ball since they could walk. Because basketball has always been there, junior Georgia Harrington said she has come to rely on the sport for an outlet to deal with stress of school, family and friends.

“Basketball has taught me to look outside of myself and what my role is on the team,” Harrington said.

Embracing that role for the good of the team is an essential aspect of a good teammate: being someone who knows their place and is willing to help when needed.

Another quality is the ability to tell teammate the truth exactly as it is.

Sometimes when basketball is at its most stressful, that truth can be brutal, but even then, the game must go on.

The Knights had to face this harsh truth on Thursday Nov. 15 when they took on Taylor in a non-district tournament at Travis. The Lady Knights fell far behind after the first half; they were not communicating effectively, they were missing shots, and they were not playing as well as they expected to play or as they knew they were capable of playing.

During halftime, they descended into a concrete bunker of a locker room and talked about what needed to be done to in order to succeed in the second half. After coming back onto the court the Knights started hitting shots, making plays and doubling their scoring output from the first half.

The game illustrated a vital lesson of sport and life. Not all victories are on the scoreboard. Some are victories of the spirit and maintaining a will to compete in adverse circumstances.

“Well I mean you’re not just going to quit the game,” Suri said. “You never know what kind of comeback you could have. I just keep trying because you never know, it’s about having fun. I just do my best.”

Naiya Antar, Rube Del Valle and Kennedy Austin are all in on defense to thwart this LBJ Jaguar attempt to drive to the basket in the Don Caldwell Gymnasium on Dec. 11. The Knights lost another close game to the Jags that night, 32-28. Photo by Risa Darlington-Horta.

Basketball is a stand-up sport.

“I never sit down during games,” Harrington said. “I walk behind the bench. It’s just a way for me be there. I have to be in it the whole time and be completely focused on the game.”

Harrington said that whether they are winning or losing and whether they are on the floor or on the bench, a good teammate has to be all in, their sole focus is what you are doing and what you can do better.

We’re all in everything together. We are more than just individuals that happen to play a sport together.”

— junior Georgia Harrington

That mindset shared by the girls on the varsity this season grew stronger because they had to overcome a lot to stick together on the court. Especially when they are losing, they relied on each other to talk and figure out how they can change their game and their attitude.

Basketball is a team sport. A team that can stick together when while a battle is being lost will never splinter into fragments.

“This year has so much more of a feel that we’re all in everything together,” Harrington said. “We are more than just individuals that happen to play a sport together.”

The bonds are formed between games not just during them. The team spends lots of time together during practices and even on team bus rides to and from games.

“Before district, we had a tournament at Crockett, at the very end of the day, it was really late, the sun was going down,” Harrington said. “We were on the bus, and we were stuck in a traffic jam. We passed a Chick-Fil-A, and we all started screaming how hungry we were. Coach Kehn pulled over to the side of the road, and we woke everyone up and we all ate at Chick-Fil-A. It was freezing cold, but we had a super fun night. It was the first time we ate together as a family.”

Risa Darlington-Horta
Sophomore Natalie Suri fights for possession during the Knights’ 32-28 home loss to LBJ on Dec. 11 in the Don Caldwell Gymnasium. Photo by Risa Darlington-Horta.

Basketball is a teacher. Losing games is hard but what you learn from the loss is most important.

It’s not as black and white as winning or losing. It’s the way we play.”

— junior Georgia Harrington

“It’s not as black and white as winning or losing,” Harrington said. “It’s the way we play.”

Being a good teammate comes easily when you are the team that everyone is scared to play, when you’re winning, scoring and hearing the crowd scream your name.

It’s a different story when you’re losing and the solution to turn things around is nowhere in sight.

The girls know they lost games but they won something more valuable and more everlasting: a team bond that they will share for the rest of their lives.

Selena De Jesus
The Knights bench erupts to cheer for the seniors on the last home game of the season. The close loss to Lanier did not take away from the joy the team expressed in celebrating their season. Photo by Selena De Jesus.

This story was originally published on The Shield Online on March 19, 2019.

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