By Floyd Jernigan
Nevada Daily Mail
Success came early and often for the Nevada Middle School seventh-grade girls' basketball program, with both the A and the B teams winning the bulk of their games.
Head coach Danny Penn's A team finished the year with an 11-4 record, while the B team finished finished the 2012 season with an overall record of 7-2.
"One of (the) main themes throughout the season was the idea of how the team is more important than any one person," said Penn, looking back on what was ultimately a very productive season for his squads. "As a result, I never let the girls know how many points they scored, as well as rebounds, assists, etc. A lot of times the, most important plays are hustle plays that don't show up on the stat sheet. We celebrated hustle plays, effort, and floor burns much more than we celebrated a leading scorer.
"Often, one player benefits with an easy basket because of the hard work of the other players," noted Penn.
The A team's leading scorer this season was Sarah Creasy, while Drew Weeks paced the B team. "Our most improved players were Jayden Chei and Janna Scotten," Penn said.
While those individual efforts were important, the greater result was the collective effort, said the coach. "The team and I emphasized that the only pair of numbers that mattered was the final score," he said.
Making up this year's seventh-grade squads were Creasy, Weeks, Chei, Scotten, Hayden Engelbrecht, Alyssa Meisenheimer, Haiden Richmond, Lily Quitno, Maddie McCaffree, Grace Jackson, Alaina Morgan, Abigail Norcross, Samantha Gundy, Emma Cheaney, Makayla Haner, Maria Rutledge, and Kiersten Ropelato.
"Our season started with a mix of girls who had varying levels of basketball skill, but they all wanted to get better," Penn said. "I asked some girls to play positions they had not played before, and they were all willing to try something new to make our team better."
As it always does, that success and desire to work hard has made Penn's job all the more rewarding.
"I've enjoyed working with a group of young women who want to get better and be successful," he said. "That desire was evident in the effort, emotion, and sweat I saw in practice every day.
"I look forward to having the opportunity to coach them again next year as eighth graders. As long as they keep giving 100 percent effort, they will be very successful."
Though the season turned out to be a very productive one, it came to an end just a bit early. Penn's squad finished the season in the Tri-County Tournament when Joplin South beat Nevada in the third-place game by a final score of 28-20, pushing Penn's squad back to a fourth-place finish.