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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Johnson: Roundball season hits midway point

Friday, January 11, 2008

How time flies by.

Even though it doesn't seem possible, high school basketball is around the midseason point.

With that said, it's now crunch time for all our teams throughout the county as they're currently in the middle of their district schedules. How they play between now and the end of the season will have a lot to do with the success they may have in the postseason.

(Photo)
Lynn Burkey and the Eaglettes have learned to expect the best out of each of their opponents every game.
(T-G Photo by Gary Johnson)
The higher a team finishes in the district gives them a better seed in the district tournament, which will lead to a better seed in the region and so on... I think you get the picture.

I've been a longtime fan of the Golden Eagles and Eaglettes and have had the pleasure of being their beat writer the past three or four years. Both teams have been very successful in District 8-AAA play over the years and together have totally dominated the district over the past few years.

One thing I've noticed is how that success brings on even a tougher challenge for the Eagles and Eaglettes. Every night they take the floor, no matter if at home or on the road, it seems like the opposing team always turns it up a notch and brings their 'A' game.

I often wonder if other teams circle the date on their schedule as they find out when they're going to play Shelbyville.

This competitive challenge didn't happen by chance. It happened because of the success the Eagles and Eaglettes have had over the years.

I'll take it even one step further. That success didn't happen by chance. It occurred after a lot of hard work.

Over the past few weeks I've discussed this subject with Eaglette coach Lynn Burkey and Eagle coach Kevin Thomas and their thoughts are almost like a recording.

"I think it all starts from the success that we've had and how other teams crave that success," Burkey said. "They think the way to have some of that success is to beat us. With all the success that we've had over the years, I think we're the standard that everybody bases themselves by, whether that's good or bad. I think that it makes people work harder when it comes time to play us."

How true those words are.

Two years ago when former Franklin County head coach Jack Harlow was an assistant for the Eaglettes in Burkey's first year at Shelbyville, I remember him talking to the team in the locker room after a game. He told them how playing against coach Rick Insell and the Eaglettes made him a better coach and in the long run made his teams better. He told them how he really got tired of getting beat and realized that he and his team had to work harder if they were going to compete with the Eaglettes.

I've often heard Burkey tell the team there's nothing magical about the water in Shelbyville and there's no special cloth in the Eaglettes' uniforms that makes them better, it's the heart and work ethic inside the body that wears the Eaglette uniform that's led to all the success.

Speaking of success, it doesn't come on a rotation, it's earned on a daily basis. Many thought that the Eagles would drop off and have a few "rebuilding years" after their state runner-up finish a few years back, losing so many talented seniors.

What many of us forgot was who was guarding and playing against those great seniors in practice. It's a lot of the guys on the team now.

Once again, hard work leads to success.

Sure, the Eagles didn't return to the state last year, but they did run through the district undefeated and are poised and ready to make a run for the state again this year. They currently post a 14-3 record and are 5-0 in 8-AAA. They'll be looking for their 34th district win in a row when they host Tullahoma tonight.

If being a marked team in the district isn't enough, throw in one of the most challenging schedules in the state year in and year out. That's a given for the Eagles and Eaglettes.

Sometimes it's more than wins, losses and a game. It's about preparing these student athletes for their destination that is yet to be undetermined.

Much like the rest of their season.

Gary Johnson is a Times-Gazette sports writer.

Gary Johnson
Point by Point

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