Mark Faust said it’s a combination of hardworking coaches and talented athletes. Matt Carson said it’s team players sticking to the values they were taught. Whitney Lewis said it’s all about having that good, old-fashioned competitive spirit.
But the Lynchburg-Clay High School athletic director and boys and girls basketball coaches agree one thing is for sure: The LCHS basketball program has already been following last year’s success with dominating records — but it’s hardly a simple process.
Last year, both the boys and girls teams won sectional and regional championships, and the boys finished off their season with a place in the Final Four. Both teams had impressive records in the Southern Hills Athletic Conference.
This year, the basketball programs have high hopes to improve on their successes from last season.
“Last year, the girls went undefeated in the league and only lost one game overall,” Faust told The Times-Gazette. “The boys lost one conference game and two regular season games. To go through a season where you only have three total losses in your varsity program, that’s kind of unprecedented. Not a lot of schools are able to do that. If we can keep that number in the single digits this year, I think we’d be happy with that.”
Faust said he credits the teams’ successes to a few things — primarily, the relationship between good coaching and naturally talented players.
“I think we just have knowledgeable, energetic, hardworking coaches, and a mixture of good athletes,” Faust said. “We’ve had three or four really athletic classes in a row, and when you can do that in a small school like ours, you’re going to have success. That’s where we are right now.”
This season, it’s all about taking what the teams learned from last year and putting it to use on the court, Faust said.
“Any time you can make a deep tournament run like the teams did last season, you have a couple things going in your favor. With the boys playing in the atmospheres they did, just having been in those scenarios, they aren’t going to be afraid of other teams,” Faust said. “The girls got a regional game in, and that’s going to help them in the tournament run, too. The longer you can play in that kind of intensity, the better, and we’ve got a lot of kids that have been there.”
Both Faust and boys head coach Matt Carson said the boys team is learning on the fly.
“What the boys are dealing with the most out of anything right now is learning to play without seniors,” said Faust. “That senior class from last year had a lot of talent and personality. Now, the boys have to figure out how to fill those voids with themselves. It’s a learning process. Who’s going to be that guy that takes the shot at the end of the game? Who’s the guy that handles the ball the most? I think, when they figure that out, they’re going to be very hard to beat. But for now, it’s a process.”
“I think the group has their own identity every year,” Carson said. “Right now, we’re in the process of finding ours. I think the kids have welcomed the success they’ve had in the past, and they definitely want to add to it this season. If you look at us, we’re 4-1 right now. We’ve played in a lot of competitive ballgames, and overall our best moments have been when we’ve handled adversity. We’ve held onto leads and fought back against tough teams, and that’s a sign of real maturing.”
The LCHS Lady Mustangs currently tout a 9-1 overall record and remain undefeated in conference at 5-0. Faust said head coach Whitney Lewis’ experience as both a high school and college basketball player puts her in a good place to coach athletic players.
“She knows what she’s doing, and we have a really good group of girls,” Faust said. “They just live and breathe sports. You put those two things together, and that’s a pretty good combination.”
“We play really well as a team,” Lewis said. “And, I think, as the season goes on, we’re going to get even better. Other than that, we have a lot of powerful, talented players on our team with the Binkley Twins and Lexi Waits. Lexi’s going to give everything she’s got, and our sophomore Peyton Scott will too. We have a talented group. They have a competitive spirit, and it’s hard to match it with any other team around.”
Lewis said she’s looking forward to seeing what the remainder of the year holds.
“We’ve been pretty successful so far, and we’re looking forward to starting the second half of the season. We have a big chunk of conference games coming up against some rivals, and we’re looking forward to what the rest of our games will look like.”
Faust said support from the community has been an important factor in Lynchburg-Clay’s success as a whole.
“One of the things that gets lost in the talent and the coaching is our fan support,” Faust said. “It was incredible last spring for both the boys and the girls. In most of our tournament games, we had a bigger crowd than the other team, even when we were traveling. That helps the kids a lot, knowing they have a community that’s going to support them and cheer them on. Every game has that three-minute stretch where you’re not doing well, but the fans still cheer, and that goes a long way for the kids. They play a tremendous role in our success.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @SportsWrighter.