Published 8:45 am Thursday, April 1, 2010
AHOSKIE – A deep breath is in order.
The Lady Bears of Hertford County began working last summer in preparation for the 2009-2010 basketball season. They did summer workouts, camps and drills.
Then came the season.
Hertford County’s girls went though the Northeastern Coastal Conference with just one blemish on their record, won the league championship and made it to the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs in one of their best seasons in recent history.
All of that came about after Justin Frederes took over the Lady Bears during the off-season. He helped lead the team back to the top of the conference and, in the process, was named All-Roanoke-Chowan Coach of the Year.
As they look back on the year of success, the Lady Bears said they enjoyed every minute of their return to prominence – especially the Northeastern Coastal Conference regular season championship.
“It felt wonderful,” said senior Deondra Morrison. “It was a feeling that’s almost impossible to describe. It showed that hard work pays off and everything we did counted.”
Classmate Olivia Edwards said she agreed with Morrison.
“Winning the conference championship confirmed that anything is possible,” she said. “Hard work always pays off in the end. I was excited because this was the first conference championship the girls have won in a long time and with me being a senior and a captain, it was a great accomplishment.”
HCHS junior Briante Bond said the Lady Bears had suffered a lot of ridicule over the years and it was good to get the program heading in the right direction.
“It meant a lot to me because we have been downed by so many people and we showed them who the real conference champs are,” Bond said.
Senior Jaleesa Chinn said the title meant the team accomplished what she believed they could.
“The conference championship meant so much to me,” she said. “My heart was set on winning it and that’s exactly what the result was.”
Frederes said he knew heading into the season the Lady Bears had a lot of talent, but didn’t know how far they could go inside the league.
“I knew going into it we had a lot of talent that could be developed,” Frederes said. “The question was how much could we develop it and develop team chemistry in a short amount of time.
“If I had to pick a point I knew we had started moving in the right direction, I would say it was the first time we played at Northeastern,” he added.
The Lady Bears suffered only one defeat in their first trip through the Northeastern Coastal Conference wars – a home setback against archrival Bertie High School.
Heading into the regular season finale, both teams were 10-1 inside the conference and the contest in Windsor would determine the league champion. The Lady Bears said they knew most people doubted them heading into that contest.
“People doubted us from the day we first started playing,” Bond said. “When we went over there and played our hearts out and beat them, it was the best feeling you could ever have. “
“Many people doubted us,” added sophomore Camaryn Jones. “I would say we had more doubters than believers. There were more people discouraging us rather than believing we could beat Bertie.
“Like Coach said in his pre-game speech, ‘It is us against the world tonight’,” Jones continued. “They really motivated us to want to prove them wrong.”
Edwards said she thought many believed the home-court advantage would be too much for the Lady Bears to overcome.
“I think that people thought that we were going to lose since the championship game was at Bertie,” Edwards said. “The whole season, we hadn’t beat Bertie, so of course no one thought we were going to win. I guess we proved them wrong even down to the last few seconds of the game.”
The NCC regular-season finale was a tough-fought contest and the Lady Bears rallied from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to win the game 50-49.
Frederes said he entered the game feeling his team was prepared.
“I was eager,” he said. “I am the type of coach that expects to go out and win every game and that’s how I want my players to feel. Any time before a game, we don’t want to be nervous, but excited. That’s something I believe in.”
The young ladies who played for Frederes said they thought the game would be different too.
“I didn’t have expectations heading into the game,” Morrison said. “I knew what I needed to do and I felt like we could do that.”
Chinn said she believed the difference on that night was because of it being the last regular season game.
“I think the difference in the last game with Bertie versus the other ones was that we realized it was our last chance to prove everyone wrong about us,” Chinn said. “Everyone was hungry for a win.”
The victory sealed a surprising, but successful season for the Lady Bears as they earned a first-round bye in the NCC tournament and advanced to the 3-A playoffs where they defeated D.H. Conley before falling to Fike.
Hertford County’s ladies said they believed all the way back in the summer season they could have the type of season they achieved.
“I knew from the beginning of the summer league season this would be the year that we would take the championship,” Edwards said. “It was a different atmosphere. We had coaches that cared about us on and off the court and a team that felt like family.”
Jones said she also believed it would be a change for the Lady Bears.
“I knew to expect greatness for this season,” she stressed. “We had a new coach that knew the game, enforced working hard every day and believed in us.
“I was anxious to see what was in store just because I knew it was going to be different than any other season the HCHS Lady Bears have ever had,” Jones added.
The overriding sentiment from the Lady Bears was that Frederes was the main reason for the chance. They complimented his work ethic and his believe in them as young ladies and as a basketball team.
“The coach was a big difference,” Bond said. “We really didn’t have the same bond with any coach before as we did this year.”
“The difference in this year and the ones before is that we were given a new coach,” she said. “Coach Frederes helped us all see that we have the potential and skill to be a winning team. He believed in us and had faith when no one else did which helped us come together.”
Jones said Frederes’ knowledge of the game was also key.
“We have a new coach that really knows basketball and pushes us to build a great foundation that we have started this year,” Jones said. “Another thing that was different was our mindset. We really began to believe we could be great because like coach said, ‘We have the talent, we just have to believe’.”
Frederes, however, was eager to spread the credit around.
“It has been a great experience all around,” Frederes said. “I don’t have a bad egg on the whole team when it comes to being a good person. When you have good people, it’s a pleasure to be around them at practice and at games.”
He also credited assistant coaches Sylvia Anthony and Sha-Teisa Sharpe with being keys to success.
“Without my staff, I don’t know where we’d be,” he said. “Coach Anthony is a necessity. She takes care of all kinds of unique issues. She can do a little of everything.
“Coach Sharpe has been fantastic, not only with her presence on the junior varsity team, but because of her status as a former college player,” he added. “She is a great role model for our players. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience to give to our girls not only in basketball, but in college life and being a good citizen.”
Frederes said the season was a great success. Counted among the accomplishments were the Northeastern Coastal Conference championship, winning the Richard W. Murray Sportsmanship Award at the News-Herald Classic and the individual honors earned by the young ladies on the team.