Community rally held for state champion Lady Pirates basketball team
As the Boonville Lady Pirates basketball team made its way to the podium one by one Wednesday night at Gene Reagan field, they all talked about the ride to get to the Final Four in Springfield.
With the score of the championship game showing on the score board at the BHS Sports Complex, which read Boonville 58, Mt. Vernon 52, the Lady Pirates also became the first girls program in Boonville history to capture a state title.
The Lady Pirates went on to finish the season at 27-2 overall and 7-0 in the Tri-County Conference under head coach Jaryt Hunziker.
But more important, Hunziker said this team left its legacy for future members of the Lady Pirates basketball team.
With approximately 500 fans on hand to cheer on the Lady Pirates one last time and salute their accomplishments by winning the Class 4 State Title, Boonville Mayor Ned Beach opened up the rally by proclaiming Wednesday, March 24 as Boonville girls varsity basketball team as basketball day.
Ross Ball, a member of the 1998 Boonville Pirates state championship football team, also spoke to the crowd about how special this was for the Lady Pirates winning the state title.
“I feel like you had all kinds of obstacles, extra restrictions and precautions that you had to take and no other team in Boonville history that I can remember has had to go through and overcome all those obstacles,” Ball said.
Ball also referenced this year’s Lady Pirates basketball team to the 1998 team because of its similarities. He said both teams were very balanced and a lot of players came through in big situations.
“It wasn't just one person, it was a true team, and that's really what we had 1998,” Ball said. “Another thing that really sticks out to me in watching all of the postgame interviews and the celebrations is just how close knit and tight of a group you guys are. That's something and a bond that you guys worked for. It's something that you can't fake, and it's not something that comes overnight. That's a bond that you guys will have forever, really.
“For us, the 1998 team, we've gotten to celebrate the championship with a 10 year reunion, and then the 20 year reunion. It's been a lot of fun to share some of the memories that we had from that season, and that's something that you guys will have to look forward to for years to come and that's really cool. The only other thing I'd add is just cherish this, soak it all up, take as many pictures, share them with each other, and cherish these memories because they'll bring you joy for the rest of your life. The last thing I would like to add is let’s not wait another 20 years to have another Boonville state championship.”
Boonville Athletic Director Chris Shikles, who Boonville Principal Tim Edwards said was responsible for bringing “That man to town”, also spoke about what he witnessed the last four weeks. Shikles said what he witnessed was a group of young ladies with one common collective purpose.
“Now these ladies have they've had this collective purpose for a long time, but what stands out to me over the last four weeks was a moment when they looked to this community and said get on our shoulders, we got you, just come along for the ride,” Shikles said. “This team has brought this community together as one and I could not be more proud of this team and how they represented the community of Boonville. It showed us that if you work hard, you take care of each other, nothing can keep you from achieving your dreams. One year ago on this night, these fields were empty, these gyms were empty, these school doors were locked. We were locked up in our homes scared, confused, depressed. Many thought we would never play fall sports. A lot of people thought we would never play winter sports and we would never touch a basketball. The community of Boonville was at the absolute bottom of a dark battle. But tonight, exactly one year later, we stand with our Boonville Lady Pirates basketball team at the absolute peak of the mountain.”
All four seniors, plus junior Addi Brownfield, also thanked the community and student body for their support throughout the season. Senior Jodie Bass led off her speech thanking her parents for believing in her and closed it with a poem.
Senior Kourtney said this has been one of the most amazing rides. “I don't want it to end,” Kendrick said. “It's been the best moment of my life, and to say that we all as a community went on this ride together, makes it even more meaningful.”
Senior Brooke Eichelberger also gave special thanks to Boonville boys basketball coach Mark Anderson for helping put film together and scouting reports. Eichelberger also thanked the Boonville Pirates basketball team for coming in and scrimmaging the team and the student section for their support.
Kennedy Renfrow, another senior member who played a key role in the team’s success, said she wanted to thank everybody who came out and supported the team during the season.
“I don't think that’s something that I'll ever be able to repay,” Renfrow said. “To have this much love and support from one community is truly remarkable. I've never seen or heard of a town that's supportive for their kids. Having the community behind us during districts and seeing everyone make the trip up to Macon, and on our home court against Westminster, it's so heartwarming. The thing that got me the most was in Springfield and running out on the court and seeing the sea of blue. That is a feeling that I can barely describe. If I could go back and redo that run out over and over again I would in an instant. You guys are what made this season possible. I don't think I can thank this community enough for being behind us throughout everything.”
Brownfield closed the players speaking by saying to the crowd, “What a ride”.
“I struggled to find the words to describe what it was like to play the sport we fell in love with under the brightest lights on the biggest stage in high school basketball,” Brownfield said. “I think I speak for every girl on this team when I say this has been an experience of a lifetime. Just thinking back on the game continues to give me goosebumps. The arena packed with things, the adrenaline pumping, our ears ringing from the noise and the thrill of victory. We didn't realize how many benefits came from winning a state title. The bond us girls have made through this journey is unbreakable, and as coach Hunziker says, we are linked together for life. The greatest experience of all was feeling the overwhelming love and support not only from the coaches and the team, but also this great community. So in closing, to all the younger players out there, dream big and work as hard as possible, because I really hope that one day you'll get to experience something as amazing as being state champs.”
Edwards said he not only wanted to thank the Boonville Lady Pirates for winning a state championship and bringing a lot of pride and excitement to our town, but also wanted to mention the way they did it.
“During the game against Mount Vernon, at one point, I saw a big pile of kids on the floor going after a loose ball,” Edwards said. “One of the memories I'll always remember from that game is I saw two of our girls reach out to help Mount Vernon players. That means something, they did it the right way. Great athletes, great sports and great incredible representation of our community.”
Closing the rally the right way, Coach Hunziker said there’s a lot of state champions in this crowd.
“One thing we talked about with this group was this isn't just about the team, it's about the community, and you guys are all state champions in our books,” Hunziker said. “We couldn't have done it without you guys. Champions aren't made quickly. They're not made easily or by accident, they are shaped by dedication and discipline, solidified by toughness and togetherness and guided by purpose and focus on a set of principles or themes that marked their progress as athletes, teammates and individuals to themes defined what became a historic run for this year's Lady Pirates.
Hunziker added that few athletes are willing to put in an extra effort in the unseen hours or understand how well we pay dividends when we needed it most. He said the girls had to learn to overcome adversity, they had to learn how to play outside of their comfort zone to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
After the ceremony, the Boonville Lady Pirates basketball team thanked the community by holding a autograph session for not only the community but also for future Lady Pirate basketball players.