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DICK AMRHINE: Cougars’ run a treat for dad

There’s another Amrhine getting some Free Lance–Star ink these days, and it has nothing to do with real estate or politics. It’s my daughter Megan, who plays for Courtland High School’s undefeated varsity girls basketball team.

From a parent’s perspective, this has been nothing short of a remarkable season. As the 29–0 girls head into a semifinal state championship game this morning at VCU’s Siegel Center, they’ve got every right to be proud of what they’ve achieved.

En route to their district and regional championships, pretty much the same scenario has been repeated more than two dozen times: first quarter, four-point lead, game over. I’d wager that of the 116 quarters they’ve played so far, in fewer than 10 have they allowed the opposition to score in double digits. That is called suffocating, lights-out defense.

Whenever the Cougar girls come out cold, or somebody’s game is a little off, or they’re tested as they were in the quarterfinal game the other night, no worries. It’s all about getting it done as a team.

Without going down the entire roster, a few players merit special mention. There’s junior Janae McNeal, Battlefield District Player of the Year, who may be the hardest-working player I’ve ever seen up close on a basketball court. No counting how many times she’s grabbed an offensive rebound, fought through the traffic and put it up and in. Just incredible.

Lone senior Anika Trent has the smoothest moves and the sweetest shot you’ll ever see. And junior Jessica Hairston—there are some fine basketball genes in that family. Probably more than once she’s been putting up her trademark baseline jumper at the very moment her brother and former Cougar Josh is doing the same thing for Duke this season as a sophomore.

These three, plus Imani Fennell and Arianna Bradley, have been playing together so long that they might as well be five pistons in the same engine. When one player is caught up in the opposing defense, she could find the open man with her eyes closed. Just pass the ball, and a teammate will be there to receive it.

They have been untouchable in the second half this year. Tied 26–26 at the half in Saturday’s quarterfinal against Loudoun County, Courtland posted a 15–4 third quarter en route to a 58–44 victory.

It requires no parental exaggeration for me to say that Megan has been a solid contributor as a freshman off the bench. If more girls had come out for basketball at Courtland, she might be playing JV. But there is no JV team this year and just eight girls on the varsity.

But under the circumstances, Megan earned her role as sixth man, having participated in preseason summer and fall workouts and practices to build on her past basketball experience.

We are fans of youth sports at our house, and both Megan and son Michael have been on teams since they were Spotsylvania Parks & Rec age-eligible: T–ball, soccer, baseball, basketball. That’s helped prepare them for high school competition and I think gives them a competitive edge in the classroom, as well. And now Megan is playing for a team laden with bright and talented girls to learn from.

If I have one issue, it’s that the games have been attended mostly by parents and a sprinkling of Cougar-spirited students and faculty. The athleticism that the Cougar girls and their opponents put on display game after game is a joy to watch.

Why wouldn’t school officials want to take full advantage of these student–athletes as role models? Football will draw no matter what. But how about reducing the basketball admission price from $6 to $3 for students, or let them in free with a paying adult? More spectators mean more fundraising concession sales, and a bigger home team cheering section.

The idea is to get more kids involved to show them that physical activity is great fun whether it’s in the big game or the backyard.

Props to Courtland Principal Larry Marks for arranging the “spirit buses” to today’s game. Time to get loud for the Cougars. Keep it going, ladies!

Richard Amrhine: 540/374-5406

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