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The 2022-2023 Lady Warriors Basketball season was a memorable one for the books, with the girls breaking the school record for most wins and staying top in the region.
by Norah Griffin
The coaches and the girls both went into the season with different expectations. Coach Witherspoon said, “They have had a different coaching staff every year and the expectation is different so just getting accustomed to this coaching staff’s expectation.” With Senior Yvette Johnson-McLeod stating that her goal was to leave her mark, “It feels great knowing that I'm a senior and I'm leaving… I'm leaving here and putting a mark on Walnut Grove and it's important to me.”
In the past, Walnut Grove didn't have a great winning streak. MaxPreps states that the Lady Warriors back in the 2019-2020 season, they were 4-20 overall and 1-9 in the region. But this season, Lady Warriors were 19-5 overall and 12-2 in the region!
Junior Dorothy Nealin recalls, ”When my sister came here, they weren't really good, and knowing that all 3 of my seasons have been decent and like my junior year we beat the school record, it's crazy to think about and unbelievable honestly.”
Nonetheless, the girls shared many memories with each other and the coaches. Dorothy reminisces, “the moments that we have in the locker room and we're just sitting on the couch just laughing and talking and sharing stories from last season.” Witherspoon recalls with the girls season, ”It's awesome to just be a part of it. This coaching staff has never coached girls before so to be able to not only coach girls, but then be a part of the most successful runs in the history of the school. And it will be something that every coach will cherish and hopefully the girls will too.” Then with Yvette saying that her favorite memory relates to winning, “it was probably when we beat North Hall. Like I know that it solidified our 19th win but it was also because they were number one on their side so it felt good to know that our number one beat their number one. But yeah it felt great.”
Following this season, everyone had their fair share of tough parts. Coaches Mulkey, Whitley, and Alex all stated that the hardest drill for the girls was “Kentucky” at the beginning of the season. But they got a flow of it throughout the season. With both Coach Witherspoon and Coach Hairston saying to the girls “Just stay true to the process and stay true to trust the work. Trust the preparation and don't cheat it. You can't cheat the grind, you can't cheat the process [and] stay true to yourself.” But with every low there is always a high point.
Dorothy, Dana, and Yvette both look back on at practices when the coaches would get involved and “how they go about helping us is different than any other coach that [Yvette has] had." Dorothy recalls, "We all are doing it all together or even like when we are doing a drill and we all get excited and cheer each other on and there is a lot of communication and just positive.” Dana remembers, “Playing with the coaches because we have never had that many coaches in one practice, so just like playing against the coaches was so much fun.”
The Lady Warriors had an amazing and memorable season for the books, but they still have a lot of work to do. Dorothy said , “During the off-season I look forward to getting better and building confidence in next year's season- just getting back into it again and proving that we have unfinished business from this year... top in region, top in state.”
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