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In describing athletes that exceed expectations in the heat of battle, the late Jack Miller — head football coach at York High School in the early to mid-60’s — coined the following cliché: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
The catchy phrase comes to mind in the midst of the York Comprehensive High School girls basketball team’s rebuilding season.
While the Lady Cougars remain in a rebuilding mode, there have been bright spots along the way, a sure sign that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
If coach Miller were here today, he would likely see plenty of fight in sophomore Sarah Latham and junior Hannah Cassell. This feisty guard tandem embraces the moment every time head coach Paula Blackwell calls their number.
Such was the case Monday, in a 57-15 home loss to Fort Mill.
Though the Lady Yellow Jackets were dominant from the outset, Latham ignored Fort Mill’s hefty lead, playing defense as if the score was tied in the waning seconds of the game.
Latham’s defensive tenacity is a sight to behold, getting into her opponent’s face step for step.
She will tell you that defending her opponent is a source of pride.
“I found out I liked playing defense when I played on the seventh-grade team,” Latham said after Monday’s game. “I’m working on my offense. I play defense with passion. There’s no let-up.”
Cassell plays with a similar mindset from an offensive perspective.
She’s an adept ball-handler who got the coach’s attention in a previous game with South Pointe.
“Tonight was the best game Hannah’s had as a varsity player,” said Blackwell.
Cassell spoke in positive tones after last week’s 57-28 loss to South Pointe.
“Somebody needs to step up,” she said.
Cassell plays with intensity and self-confidence.
“If you play with confidence, your opponent is not as likely to tie you up,” explained the swift-of -foot playmaking guard. “I play with passion. I’m not a laid-back individual.”
Blackwell, whose teams have been frequent playoff participants in past years, is keenly aware the Lady Cougars’ rebuilding mode is a work in progress.
“Losing is tough on all of us,” said Blackwell, a former standout at Furman University and Broome High School.
“Fort Mill played great defense,” she said after Monday’s game. “They took us away from our execution.”
Blackwell lauded the players’ effort against Fort Mill. “The kids got after it from start to finish,” she noted. “That’s all you can ask. We’re still looking at different combinations and working on fundamentals.”
The Lady Cougars stayed within striking distance in the South Pointe game until the Lady Stallions pulled away in the third quarter.
Through thick and thin this season, Blackwell hasn’t given up on the team and the players are buying into what they are told to do.
“The kids are striving to improve,” Blackwell said.
Cassell and Latham are convinced batter days are ahead for the Lady Cougars.
“The team is coming together well,” noted Cassell. “That’s a good sign.”
“We’re building the program,” she said. “We’ll get there.”
If Latham and Cassell have their way, the Lady Cougars’ return to the glory days of yesteryear will come sooner than later.
They are relentless on the court, TV’s Energizer Bunnies, if you will.
The fearless competitors are precisely what competitive athletics are all about and a joy to watch.