REGGIE HAYES: How an unloved basketball and an acronym led to Lakewood Park’s first girls high school sectional title
AUBURN – There’s an unloved basketball, an unusual acronym and a first-ever sectional championship trophy in the hands of the Lakewood Park Christian High School girls basketball team.
First, the basketball. It’s a commemorative ball from last year’s sectional championship game, although “commemorative” is not quite the right word. “Bitter reminder” would be better.
The score of last year’s sectional title game, in which Blackhawk Christian beat Lakewood Park 27-25, is written in marker on the ball. The players from last year’s Lakewood Park team, which had no seniors, all signed it.
The Panthers use the ball in practice this year.
“That’s been a good pusher for us, telling us ‘We need to get that this year,’ ” senior shooting guard Hadyn Faur said. “We were so close last year, we all wanted to get it this year. We knew how hard we worked last year, coming so close. We wanted to push that much harder.”
Lakewood Park added outstanding freshman point guard Chloe Jolloff to the mix in coach Amy Bartkowiak’s second season, and her addition also helped pave the way to a 14-5 regular season.
Jolloff’s presence allowed Faur to move over to the shooting guard spot, a more natural role for Faur. Faur averages 12.8 points per game, with sophomore Gracyn Fetters adding 10.2 points per game.
Bartkowiak, a Garrett High and University of North Carolina-Asheville alum, coached in the junior high two years ago, so she coached Jolloff in the seventh grade. She knew the potential of adding Jolloff, who moved from Norwell to Lakewood Park as a seventh grader, to the lineup.
Jolloff immediately embraced the point guard role – she’s averaging 9.8 points and 5.5 assists per game – and she’s a big fan of the Bartkowiak’s motivational acronym PHACCS.
PHACCS (pronounced facts) stands for Precision Hustle Attitude Commitment Communication and Stewardship. It’s an approach that has helped the players retain their focus on the court, and has clearly led to more success.
“We’re seeing where you use them in certain games,” Jolloff said. “We look back and see games where we needed more hustle and effort or we needed to be more communicative on defense and stuff. It’s nice to be able to use those games and base what we do off them.”
Lakewood Park, which finished 8-14 last season, entered this year’s postseason confident it could finally deliver the school’s first girls basketball sectional title. The Panthers beat Elkhart Christian 42-18 in the opening game, Fremont 39-33 in the semifinals and Lakeland Christian 41-38 last Saturday to earn the trophy in the Class A sectional played at Bethany Christian.
Unranked Lakewood Park (17-5) will play No. 12 North White (19-4) at 10 a.m. Saturday in a Class A regional semifinal game at Caston. The winner will face the winner of No. 14 Oregon-Davis (13-12) and No. 1 Marquette Catholic (23-2) at 8 p.m. in the title game.
“I’ve been telling them for two years they can do more than they think they can do,” Bartkowiak said. “Last year was a rebuilding and retraining year. Coming in this year, with the same team and additions to the team, it was easy to say, ‘Let’s go for sectional again.’ ”
Bartkowiak has a nice blend of players on the roster with five seniors (Faur, Cassidy Randol, Maddie Hartz, Aubrey Jester and Rebekah Priskorn), one junior (Millie Linnemeier), three sophomores (Fetters, Mica Allen and Hope Liechty) and four freshmen (Jolloff, Autumn Graber, Tori Miller and Sophia Palacios).
She said the team gained confidence and became adept at putting pressure on other teams around the middle of the season. That’s the basketball side.
Bartkowiak became emotional while talking about the unity of the players, which is critical to any successful team.
“They just love one another all the time,” she said, pausing for composure. “I can’t help it. They’re just always encouraging to one another.”
Fetters, who was part of the team last season as a freshman, said she can tell the difference in the closeness of the team this season.
“Even when we played summer league, we were more united as a team,” Fetters said. “We played hard, more together all the way through. We work so much better together. We’re more unified and so much more confident. We’re always picking each other up.”
Last year’s sectional basketball, the one with disappointing final score, doesn’t have a hold on them anymore. They’ve got the coveted trophy now.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at email@example.com.