Lady Vikings embrace winning responsibility, new culture
Published 12:02 am Saturday, December 13, 2014
Vidalia — Ten minutes after the final bell sounded to signal the end of the school day Friday afternoon, members of the Vidalia Lady Vikings emptied out of the locker room and began running laps, each with a ball in hand.
After they ran, they each found a goal to shoot free throws.
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Finally, head coach Fred Marsalis called the team to begin stretching.
“We don’t have to blow whistles and tell them to get after it,” Marsalis said. “They know.”
This was an anomaly three years ago. Disorganized and lacking true want, the Vidalia girls basketball team struggled to produce close contests, let alone a victory. Even getting the team to show up on time was a struggle.
“Somebody would come in at 3:30 p.m., somebody would come in at 3:45 p.m., somebody would come in at 4 p.m. and somebody wouldn’t show up,” said Marsalis thinking back to his first season.
In his third year as head coach, Marsalis has implemented structure within the program, and the results are now being carried over onto the court.
In just seven games — only six count, as the loss to Cathedral did not — the Lady Vikings have won three games, one win shy of last season’s total. Vidalia has a .500 record six games into the season, which is a feat the school hasn’t accomplished in over a decade.
“It had to change,” Marsalis said. “My assistant (Tyberia Bell) knew what basketball should be about. So we got together and worked on it. She’s younger, played for me, so she could get out there with them.”
It’s a constant process, though, as Marsalis is far from completely changing the culture. He has found new ways of going about it, however. For instance, one week ago, he and his assistant took the team to an LSU women’s basketball game, as the Tigers took on Louisiana Tech.
“I wanted to show them what it looked like to be at the next level,” Marsalis said.
So far this season, he’s gotten his team’s attention, and team members are carrying a new sense of passion onto the court and into the locker room after the results. Tierra Bell, a senior on the team, said during her underclassmen years, players would easily brush past a loss.
That’s not the case these days.
“When we lose, some people cry,” Bell said. “Back then, nobody would cry unless it was the last game of the season or something like that.”
The biggest difference in this season, Marsalis said, was the team’s growing self-confidence. That alone was crucial to the rebuilding process.
“The biggest difference is the girls are believing in themselves,” Marsalis said. “We had to establish that belief, we had to get them to learn how to win. We had to get that attitude in them.”
Now, the girls are setting their sites higher than seemingly ever before. In fact, Bell said she wants to win district, win in the playoffs and even win the state championship.
“Seeing the Natchez girls do it last year sparked something in me because I want to win and go out big,” Bell said. “We want to be the next champions in the area. Cathedral just got a ring, and now, we want one too.”