GRAFTON— After having five of their regular season games canceled due to COVID-19 outbreaks, the Grafton High School (GHS) Lady Bearcat basketball season has officially come to an end.
And while it wasn’t the finish they were hoping for, the unconventional season gave the team a new perspective and sense of gratitude. The team finished their season playing seven games in the span of just 11 days, and had the drive to win.
“This season has definitely been one for the ages because of all the challenges these kids had to overcome with the current pandemic situation,” expressed head coach Andrew Moore.
Despite the challenges and struggles, Moore reported that he couldn’t be more proud of his team and the will and perseverance they displayed over the season.
“I am proud of this team and how hard they have worked this season. They didn’t jump ship when things got hard, they stuck together and played for their school and their community,” he noted.
The team missing their lone senior Mia Chambers, due to an injury, was led by their four seasoned juniors, Sydney Friend, Isabella Swiger, Amber Smith and Alyssa Satterfield.
According to Moore, Satterfield had to take on a different role this year, and he felt as though she became more and more comfortable with it as the year progressed.
She shared that they knew going into the season it would be one unlike any other they had ever experienced, but together, the four of them made a commitment to the coaching staff and the program to make the best of the situation, and to lead their younger teammates by example.
“Although it took several games, there was finally a point in the season where vast improvement was evident, and the drive continues to not only get better, but to win became a team goal,” Satterfield voiced.
While the season is over, she shared that she looks forward to seeing what this unit will bring to the court next year.
Moore described Swiger is a special person, saying, “She shows up to every workout, every conditioning run and really works hard at improving herself at the game.”
Swiger again explained the commitment made by her and her fellow junior teammates to keep pushing forward despite the obstacles they were faced with all season long.
“This season has definitely been unforgettable with COVID and the crazy schedule it has caused,” she voiced. “We had a rocky start with the season being delayed, and then, coming back to having some injuries. Our only senior was injured before the season started. Even with the injuries all of the girls still fought for their opportunity to play.”
Even through losses, canceled games and quarantine periods, Swiger shared that each time, the ladies came back working harder and more determined than ever.
“I think what really kept us going this year was the love of the sport and our team. Each and every one of us loves the sport of basketball and wanted to put our all onto the court. The love of the sport brought dedication and encouragement, even the girls suffering injuries showed up to all the games and practices to show their support for the team,” she disclosed.
Transitioning from her sophomore to her junior year, Sydney Friend was a phenomenal asset to the Lady Cats, finishing the year being second on the team in made three-point field goals.
One of the challenges that stood out the most for Friend was the limited attendance for games, forcing the team to create their own energetic environment.
“This year was definitely challenging for my teammates and I. The pandemic really altered our usual schedule for the season. First our season got delayed. Then we had to quarantine for two weeks in the middle of our season. On top of that we didn’t have our usual crowd at our games. Our number of classmates able to attend our games was limited, so we didn’t have a student section to cheer us on,” she elaborated.
Friend noted that the team is very competitive and has an appetite for winning, putting in long hours of practice and leaving it all on the court.
“Although our season didn’t go as expected, we never let a loss get us down. We left everything out on the court, and started to think about the next game. At practices we encouraged each other, and were very supportive to one another. I enjoyed playing with this group of girls. I think next season will be different. I think we will be better prepared and have a different outcome than this season,” she stated.
Moore spoke about Amber Smith saying that she had a great year for the team and played the game hard, turning out to be a threat for Cats from beyond the three-point line.
Smith led the team with her three-point shooting percentage.
“This year has been crazy for us all, especially for my team. We have been put in quarantine not only once but twice, and we also got a late start. With COVID we had a restriction to how many fans we could have, therefore we had to be our own sound,” commented Smith.
She said that the team relied on each other for encouraging words and no matter what they were faced with, and she was proud of her teammates for never giving up.
“If you look at our record, we lost a majority of our games, but for as young as we were, we never gave up,” Smith boasted. “No matter how angry we got, we always left everything on the court. During practice we would always push each other no matter how tired we were. I love my team, and I cannot wait for the new freshman to come up!”
Moore shared that Lady Cat Eva Jones was the team’s most improved player from beginning of the year to the end, while the young combination of Kambree Delaney and Jodi Keene got thrown into the varsity mix early, and he feels as though they did a great job in this role.
“I’m excited to see how they progress over the next three years,” he bolstered.
He went on to share in the team’s heartbreak to losing senior Mia Chambers.
“We are going to miss our lone senior Mia Chambers, she was a good player for us over the years, but even more so an even better person,” Moore added.
He reported that despite losing Chambers, the team will be returning everyone else and is hopeful that the year of experience, along with putting some work in the offseason, they will be able to return Grafton girls basketball to a place everyone is familiar with.
“I hope they take a little time off and make the decision to get back in the gym and weight room to prepare for next season. It will be quickly approaching,” Moore said.
The Lady Cats ended the season with a 2-10 record, with wins against Union and Liberty.