Westview’s hard work paying off in state trip
Posted: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:00 pm
By KEVIN WEAKS
Westview’s girls have come a long way since 2010.
Now, they’re going back to Murfreesboro.
Making their first state tournament appearance in three years, the Lady Chargers were to play Elizabethton 1:30 p.m. today in the quarterfinal round.
A win there puts Westview in the semifinals at 4 p.m. Friday, and then the championship game for Class AA is slated for 6 p.m. Saturday.
All games are being played at the Murphy Center on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University.
Getting there, according to Lady Charger head coach Sean Stephenson, has been a long road that required a lot of work.
“We had to get better, we had to improve,” Stephenson said. “We lost a lot to graduation (after 2010) and even in the year after that.
“Last year was a big year for us because we didn’t have many seniors, so it was a chance to grow up and have some on-the-job training. We got to playing well late in the year and had the chance to get to the region semifinals, to experience that. That experience last year of growing up against a really good Dyersburg team and really good Obion Central team, going through those battles, really helped us coming into this year.”
Stephenson gives much of the credit to a small but determined senior class.
Teddy Vincent, a 5-11 forward, is the team’s top scorer and will take her talents to High Point University after graduation, while 5-7 guard Kaitlyn Harrelson and 5-9 guard Katelyn Luthi have grown into solid role players.
“The seniors have put in a lot of work,” Stephenson said. “They were one of the first groups I started with when they were in the sixth grade, taking them to play in AAU tournaments in Dyersburg, Murray and all over the place. These four, when you include Jasmine (Howard), have stuck with it and dedicated their time to improving and playing at a high level.
“I’m proud for the seniors to get there because they saw it happen as freshmen. We went through two years of trying to get back there and building, so for them to get there is huge.”
The quartet became a trio when Howard suffered a season-ending knee injury, and Stephenson pointed out how the entire squad overcame the loss to become a state title contender.
“We had a really good summer and were playing well and then, all of a sudden, we lose Jasmine,” Stephenson said.
“There’s no doubt we’re a different team without her than we were with her. We’re a little more limited in what we can do. But, that was a challenge for other kids to step up and do some things for the team, and I think everyone’s responded to that challenge. I think that’s a big reason why we are where we are now.”
Westview slowed its tempo without Howard, who forced the action at the front of the team’s patented 1-3-1 halfcourt zone. Others also had to pick up her numbers on the boards as a top-flight rebounder.
Luthi has developed into a solid player at the top of the zone, and Harrelson has become more comfortable handling the ball on the perimeter.
And, the unit revolves around Vincent, who has literally shot her way to a college scholarship.
“Teddy’s work ethic has been second to none,” Stephenson said. “She’s shot more shots on her own than anyone I’ve ever coached. There’s no telling how many thousands and thousands of shots she’s taken and the time she’s put in to make herself a better player.”
Other than Vincent, though, Westview’s offense goes through the Leyhues, juniors Kaley and Kendall, and sophomore Tiffany Rechis.
Kaley Leyhue, Stephen-son says, is the one who usually ignites the offense, as she did with back-to-back 3-pointers to open the sectional game against Manassas in Memphis.
That put the Lady Tiger defense on the run, and Rechis took advantage by hitting seven threes and scoring 27 points while Vincent ultimately scored in double figures as well.
Harrelson and Luthi have had their share of good offensive production late in the season, while 5-5 sophomore guard Alexus Taylor has provided some instant energy and, at times, offense off the bench.
“I think one thing that’s shown up since the district tournament is that all of our kids have been able to score at a high level if they were needed to,” Stephenson said.
They all will certainly be needed at Murfreesboro, where Stephenson sees an exciting tournament shaping up.
“I think there’s a lot of parity in double-A this year,” the coach said. “There’s not one game in double-A where you can look at it and say one team will blow out the other.”
Stephenson pointed out the quality of teams in the field, saying it would be hard to convince him any team is more talented than Covington, and the number of Division 1 signees, commitments and recruits on the eight rosters.
Still, working their way through the strong field would give the Lady Chargers a well-earned state crown … and a well-deserved one.
Published in The WCP 3.7.13