Updated Thu, Feb 16, 2012 3:32 pm
The Alexander Lady Spartans may only have two wins this season, but the bright spots for the team extend much further than the tally in the victory column.
Coming into the season, the concern was whether the team could be successful with no returning seniors, a plethora of freshmen and only one remaining starter.
But that one starter, junior Kaylee Koker, was the leader that coach Denton Guthrie needed to help mold the younger players into a strong basketball team.
After losing their first fifteen contests of the season and being marginally outscored 967 to 354, a game finally fell the Lady Spartans way. Carried by Koker and freshman-sophomore duo Allyson Malone and Marilyn Rankin, the Lady Spartans knocked off Wellston in a thriller.
“We feel like we’ve been playing really hard and practicing hard,” Guthrie said after the game. “ I couldn’t guarantee them we would ever win a game, but we knew we could feel great about our work. We have started to turn a corner, and these girls deserved to get a win.”
“It was definitely a little bit of a weight lifted off,” Koker said. “I’m not going to even lie, I was a little scared we weren’t going to get a win.”
After it took them 16 games to get win number one, the Lady Spartans hashed up another victory just three games later against Meigs, led by Koker’s 21 points. Now, Alexander is getting production from every source possible, especially from the underclass talent.
At the beginning of the season, Koker, who is typically a forward, had to run the point due to lack of experience. Now, players like Rankin and Malone have stepped up and have made the Alex offense more diverse.
“I’ve been extremely impressed with them,” Koker said. “They came in with only me to look up to and I’m not sure how good of an example I’ve set for them.”
Whether she thinks she has been a good leader or not, Coach Guthrie has noticed the effort she puts in.
“She’s been a phenonmenal leader. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a leader that has taken over everything. For one person to control everything the way she’s doing it and keep her sanity is pretty amazing to me.”
“At first I tried to be really vocal especially at the beginning of the season, but now I’ve tried to go into a lead by example,” Koker said. “I hoped that if they saw me go hard, they would go hard, too.”
Alexander faces off against Lucasville Valley Thursday night, the same team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season. Entering the playoffs as a 14 seed, the Lady Spartans are big underdogs in the matchup, but even if they come up short, they have a lot to look forward to moving forward.
“I think it all depends how hard we work in the offseason”, Koker said. “If we do everything we’re supposed to, we’ll be golden. We can be great next year.”