Lady Musketeer championship was a special one for me to cover PDF Print E-mail
Written by George Browning   
Tuesday, 14 March 2017 08:14

I love an underdog story.

At the core, that’s why I was rooting for the Atlanta Falcons to win the Super Bowl. I don’t have anything against Tom Brady or the New England Patriots outside of the fact that they are really, really good.

They win, and win a lot. If not for Eli Manning, they’d have seven Super Bowl trophies in the Tom Brady era. That alone is reason enough for me to root against them.

A few people picked Atlanta to win, but by and large, prognosticators knew Brady and the Pats would be victorious.

This column isn’t about the Super Bowl as much as it is a group of underdogs I recently had the privilege of watching rise up and beat a team they weren’t supposed to.

My oldest daughter Dakota is a senior and played basketball through eighth grade at East Washington. I have literally watched the players currently on the Eastern High School team grow up.

I even had the privilege to coach the seniors in a few summer league games when they were in middle school.

We were competitive in all of our games except against one team, the Providence Lady Pioneers! They had a group of eighth-graders that were very good.

Heading into the February 4 sectional championship the Eastern seniors were 2-4 against Providence in high school. One of those wins came when they were juniors the night after Providence had beaten New Albany.

Not taking anything away from Eastern’s win, but Providence was obviously flat that night.

But Saturday, there were no excuses. The Lady Musketeers had a much tougher road to the sectional title. When the game started the lack of Lady Pioneer competition early in the sectional seemed to help them as they bolted to a 12-2 lead.

I thought it was going to be another loss for the Lady Musketeers and I didn’t know if I could stomach another loss to Providence!

Eastern was wobbly from those big early swings PHS landed, but they regrouped and begam tp mount a come back.

When Holly Purlee hit a three to put EHS up by two late in the game, I think everyone in the gym began to feel like the upset was not only a possibility, but was likely going to happen.

On paper, Eastern looked out-matched. Providence had already beaten them 53-48 and 43-39 this season.

Throw in last year’s 53-51 loss in the sectional final and there was not much hope outside the EHS locker room.

If the recent losses weren’t enough, the physical difference between the two teams was glaring during the warm-ups. Eastern was smaller at every position (height and weight).

Then a funny thing happened to Providence on their way to claiming the sectional championship – Eastern reached into their bag and pulled out a stone and hit the Lady Pioneers – they took down the giant!

No one at Eastern would call it an upset, the Purple and Gold faithful had a bigger crowd than the host school. They not only believed in their team’s ability to win it, they traveled to Clarksville that night expecting to win.

In my two decades of covering high school sports I have covered a lot of sectional championship teams, but given my history with these girls, this one was special for me.

I’d say it is in the top four of my favorite moments.

It’s hard to put them in order, but Borden’s boys winning the state championship a few years ago, Salem’s boys knocking off Washington in the Regional Semi-Finals (when Cody Zellar was a sophomore in high school) and Borden’s softball team winning state last year rank as the most special.

Eastern’s win, at the end of the day, is just a Class 2A sectional championship, but for me, it was watching a group of kids come together, buy in and work their butts off to get better.

From getting crushed by the Lady Pioneers as eighth-graders to cutting down the nets on at Providence High School as seniors  – not a much better bow to put around that story.

Holly Purlee was a member of that middle school team. Her memory is short. She said she doesn’t remember those middle school games, but she does remember the two losses from earlier this year and they were motivation for her and her teammates.

“I just know losing to them two times already this season made it awesome to beat them in the championship game to win our sectional,” she said.

Another senior, Olivia Fleenor agreed. She, Purlee, Kolbi Sponcel and Taylor Drury were all in the program as freshman, but did not contribute to  Eastern’s win.

This time around, they all played a role.

“This may have been our (the seniors) second sectional, but this one I was active in it, I was actually a part of the team instead of a sideline freshmen player,” Fleenor said. “Cutting down the nets was a rush of many emotions. Beating this amazing team who had beat us many times before inspired me and everyone else. It was then I think we realized how far we’ve come.”

At press time, results of the regional were not known, but no matter the outcome, it was sure fun to watch this group of Lady Musketeers dig deep and prove that every underdog has their day!