With every hard-fought win, Sacred Heart’s youth-filled girls basketball team grows up a little more. Led by first-year coach Caleb Vaughan, the Lady Crusaders have hit somewhat of a growth spurt in recent weeks, winning six straight on the way to a 9-6 record after starting 3-6.
Win No. 9 came Friday night on the road and like several of their recent games, it wasn’t easy. After going back and forth with Sumrall much of the contest, Sacred Heart built a four-point, 39-35 lead with less than a minute left in regulation. The Lady Bobcats answered with a three-pointer from Dacey Harrington and a made free throw Lilli Robertson to send it into overtime.
In the huddle prior to the extra period, Vaughan told his players they could pout or win the basketball game. The Lady Crusaders chose the latter. Vaughan’s team opened overtime with an 8-0 scoring run before holding off the Lady Bobcats’ second comeback attempt in the final seconds to win 48-46.
“They came together and decided we were gonna compete,” Vaughan said. “We’re so young. I played two eighth graders probably 27 minutes tonight and started two freshmen and a 10th grader. We’re just babies, so for them to see we can compete, we grew up tonight. Really proud of them.”
Mallory Gilbertson led Sacred Heart with 25 points, including six three-pointers and two straight to open overtime. Just a freshman, Gilbertson is “as good as anybody when she’s on”, according to Vaughan.
“As far as the scoring run, that’s just Mallory Gilbertson doing what she does—sticking shots,” he said. “She’s had a couple games this year where she’s hit four or five [three-pointers]. Then she’s had some games where she’s struggled. Our message to her is just always ‘in range, in rhythm, get it up’. We’re not passing those up because that’s good offense for us.”
As a whole, Vaughan says the offense is pretty simple.
“We don’t do anything special. We just get out and run, and we hope to get layups that lead to free throws. The girls have just stuck with it, and they keep playing really, really hard.”
Coming from North Panola, that’s all Vaughan knows.
“Even if we were not supposed to be in the same building, we just thought we were gonna win. Kids that were just super tough, and some of that is slowly starting to rub off on the girls.”
But there’s always room for improvement. In recent games, the Lady Crusaders have made a habit of missing free throws or wide-open layups. Vaughan has challenged his players to correct those mistakes, and he says they’ve responded positively.
“It’s a group that’s been hungry to be pushed.”