Sitting in her office Friday after Ellison clinched its second straight outright district title with a 50-38 win against Temple, Lady Eagles head coach Sherry McKinnon admitted that this particular title was special.
“Even on a year like this year that I’m being told this is supposed to be our down year,” McKinnon said. “My kids didn’t know anything about that. They don’t know about down.”
In hindsight, that statement — that Ellison, now heading to the playoffs for the sixth straight season under eighth-year coach McKinnon, was due for a down season — appears ridiculous.
But Ellison did lose a talented senior class, one that included District 8-5A MVP Kenesha Saygo and two All-District 8-5A first-teamers.
The Lady Eagles are also considerably smaller this year compared to past editions, as no player approaches 6 feet in height.
Yet they’ve found a way to win games with scrappy defense and increased offensive production from players like senior Francesca Patrick and juniors Jordanna Porter and Bri’anna Gray.
Even when the shots haven’t been falling this season — as they weren’t against Temple, when the Lady Eagles hit just two shots outside the paint — Ellison hasn’t wavered.
“They’re in control of their emotions; they’re in control of that and they understand that it’s our destiny,” McKinnon said. “I told them I believe in them.”
And her players have yet to give McKinnon reason not to believe.
Heading into the Temple game, they told her they’d help her sweep the Tem-Cats for the first time in her Ellison career.
It wasn’t easy, but just as they have done the rest of this district season, the Lady Eagles found a way to come out on top.
“I threw that out to them yesterday, and they told me, ‘This will be your year, Coach,’” McKinnon said with a smile. “So, they’re telling me things and they’re backing it up.”