KEDRICK STOREY: Faithful messengers

The Pine Grove Lady Panthers are having an unbelievable season. A season with a message we can all hearken too.

I am far from the best Christian on the planet, but I do believe the word of God is absolute truth. So do the Pine Grove Lady Panthers. If you ask any of the players or the staff, they point to a sincere belief  in God as the sole reason for this run.

Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you.”

The Lady Panthers motto, “Rise To The Occasion,” based on Exodus 9:16: “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (NIV)

At season’s start they obviously desired to end it with a state title,  but nobody saw this coming.  Not to mention the fact that last season was expected to be the state-tournament year. Unfortunately they ran into the eventual state champs, Byers, in a North quarterfinal game.

This year, with a new coach and facing new roles, the players collectively bought into a cause bigger than themselves, physically, emotionally, but most importantly, as they contend, spiritually. They said there was a message in their success. No one took credit for the wins. No one talked ‘I and we’ only about ‘us and He.’ And they always talked about a message; not a specific message, just a message.

As regular-season division wins made way for a division tournament title and advancement to the North Tournament, the message got louder and louder: It’s not us. It’s Him.

“Whatever that purpose is, we just hope we don’t miss it,” said Katie Bates, following a win over Brooks. “We just want to do what He would have us to do,” said Anna Fryar after advancing to the state title game. “We just want to make sure He gets all the glory for this game and all that we have done. It’s all Him,” replied Katelin Miller after hitting a game-winner over Ashland.

If you look closely at what the small team with the small gym from the small town has done over the past few weeks, it’s really unfathomable.

They haven’t been the biggest, the fastest or the quickest in any matchup since winning the 1-1A Tournament. They just—and not to beat a dead horse—found ways to win. “Though you may not be the most athletic team, you can execute to almost the point of perfection,” said Hinds AHS coach Bruce Baker,” after they were eliminated by Pine Grove 51-46 last week in Jackson.

They’ve found a way to win 16 of their last 18 games. With a belief that never wavered they’ve just kept winning. Even when they trailed twice in the final seconds of the most important game of their lives, a North Semifinal against Ashland–the qualifier for Jackson–they found a way.

I could write all day about the influence of first-year coach Katie Bates and her emphasis of defense;  about her ability to develop players, give them a specific rolls, coach during practice and then watch as they execute during games. She, however, refuses the praise. She says “It’s not me.” It’s the message and she’s just a part of it.

“I hate for the hype to be about me because I’m nothing, just an everyday basketball coach. There are coaches that know way more than I do, that probably work harder than I do. But those girls, they have hearts the size of the heavens. You can’t even explain how big their hearts are,” said Bates.

They do have big hearts. Those hearts are  full of faith, a  faith that defies odds, a faith that says their success comes not from their own might, but from a Higher Power.  They have a faith that has them on the doorstep of “and all these things will be added unto you.”

What a message.

About Kedrick Storey

Born and raised in Ripley. Mississippi State graduate. Southern Sentinel sports writer since Sept. 29, 2008. I also offer ground support to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.