WARSAW - The on-court celebration following South Side's 47-44 victory over Warsaw in the Class 4A North Semistate on Saturday felt more than just joy over winning a big game.
There was emotion, there was happiness, but there was also an unspoken aura surrounding the South Side team and its fans.
The Archers were saying, “It is time to respect us.”
There is no shortage of respect for South Side in this area. The Archers have won 13 or more games for nine consecutive seasons. They have won back-to-back SAC championships.
But it was in the playoffs, particularly past the sectional level, that South Side still lacked the hardware.
It is hard to believe that prior to 2007, the Archers had not a single postseason trophy. No sectional championships of any kind, let alone regional or semistate crown.
Then came coach Andy Rang, who took over in 2004 after a disastrous 3-16 campaign. South Side won 13 games in his first season, and the Archers have not fallen below that yearly win total since.
Rang moved on after five years, three sectional championships and a regional title in 2008. Enter Coach Juanita Goodwell, who has continued the rise of the South Side program, capturing three more sectional crowns, a pair of regional titles and on Saturday, the first semistate title in program history.
“All we are trying to do is maintain (our success),” Goodwell said. “But my three seniors that start, Lynnia Noel, Ariana Simmons and DeJoyah Johnson, they just wanted more.
“They have been there before, have tasted success and tasted defeat. With their leadership, that's why we are here.”
It is fascinating to watch also-ran programs develop into regional powers, with every recipe being different. What works in rural Indiana may not work in cities like Fort Wayne and Indianapolis.
But what you do need is coaches who “get it,” being able to relate to their players and get the absolute best out of them.
You also need players to buy in and lead from within. The Archers have that in the trio of senior starters. It is a group that has experienced success at South Side, but was willing to do all it took to take the program one step farther, to a place it had never been.
A decade ago, the South Side girls basketball team was an afterthought when it came to playing into late February. Last Saturday, it further proved it has grown into one of the top programs in the state in terms of sustained success.
In Terre Haute in five days, that success could earn them an Indiana-shaped trophy.