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Wright proud of Lady Rebels' push through one-win season
Mallory Johnson
With excited teammates behind her, the Lady Rebels' Mallory Johnson (2) looks to pass as a pair of Beaufort defenders apply fourth-quarter pressure Monday night. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
I’ve been coaching for 33 years and, to be honest with you, this has been one of the most enjoyable basketball teams I’ve ever coached because everyday there was improvement.
Lady Rebels head coach Wade Wright

 SPRINGFIELD — Even though their record is quite unsightly, Effingham County’s girls basketball team has maintained a beautiful approach while posting it.

The Lady Rebels have refused to give up despite being outscored 1,200-468 while posting a 1-21 record. They have maintained their work ethic and determination even though they haven’t tasted victory since topping Groves 30-20 in the Savannah Holiday Classic more than a month ago.

Head coach Wade Wright, who inherited the team four games into the season following the departure of Patrick McClure, couldn’t be prouder of his girls’ approach.

“I’ve been coaching for 33 years and, to be honest with you, this has been one of the most enjoyable basketball teams I’ve ever coached because everyday there was improvement,” Wright said. “Yeah, we’ve had some hard times. It’s hard to walk into a locker room and stand in front of a bunch of girls when you’ve lost by 45 points for the eighth time. It’s hard, but yet we pick one or two little things every game and every game we accomplish something that we set a goal for.”

The Lady Rebels, 0-7 in Region 2-AAAAAA, have been held to fewer than 20 points 12 times but lost their last two contests by just three and 12, respectively. Led down the stretch by senior center Jasmine Kennedy, they pushed Beaufort (S.C.) into double overtime Monday before falling 38-35.

The Effingham County fans backed their team heartily in that contest but that hasn’t always been the case. The struggling Lady Rebels have been the butt of occasional jokes at home and regularly abused on the road.

“To go what they went through — they lost their coach, they had a change in philosophy — that took some time — then you had a Thanksgiving break, then you had a Christmas break, and then to come back from all that and play as well as they are playing ...” Wright said as his tailed off. “When we started, we were getting beat by 50, 60 and 70 (points), and now it’s 20, 10, three, you know? That says loads (about these girls).” 

Lakota Powell joins Kennedy as one of Effingham County’s hustling seniors. Other key contributors include DeAndra’ William, Jania Taylor, Kalyce Watson and Mallory Johnson.

“I can only give compliments to the kids,” Wright said. “Coaches don’t shoot shots, coaches don’t play defense and coaches don’t play the game. All we do is give those kids the opportunity to get better and they have swallowed it.”

Wright isn’t worried that his team’s record hasn’t reflected its growth.

“This goes beyond wins and losses right now,” he said. These kids will remember this season more than if they had won a championship because they persevered, they were persistent and they improved — and they did it.

“Regardless of what happens from now on, we will have a special bond because we did it. We did it.”

Wright has no doubt better days are coming for the Lady Rebels.

He said, “I told the seniors, ‘You will always be part of us because when we turn this thing around and we start winning and beating all these people, you are going to come back and celebrate with us and we are going to be able to look at all those critics and go, ‘PFFFFT!’”

Effingham County will host region foe Brunswick on Friday at 7 p.m.