Taking Care of Business
By Tim Emmons
High school sports can be very competitive.
Getting young athletes to buy in to your philosophy isn’t always easy for a coach, but oftentimes when they do buy into it the thought of being a champion is that much sweeter.
That is a big reason why the Queen City varsity girls’ basketball Head Coach Janice McMellon was able to lead an amazing cast of Lady Bulldogs to a district record of 14-0 recently which is no easy task when you play in an eight-team district.
Before we explore the great accomplishment let’s look back at how Coach McMellon’s time at QC materialized.
Last year McMellon almost hung up her whistle and closed her playbook for the final time before fate or QC AD Justin Burk stepped in.
“I have coached/taught for more than 20 years and I have either played basketball or coached it for 40-plus years,” McMellon said. “I love this game! I fell in love with it as a ten year old when I got a basketball for my birthday.”
“Last spring, I had decided I didn’t have it in me to coach any more. I was done. Then a position came up and after talking to QC AD Justin Burk, I was coaching again,” McMellon remarked. “I have known Coach Burk since he first came to Queen City and have admired him as a young, enthusiastic coach who is doing great things in the district. I am proud to be a part of his program.”
Of course she came to QC with an impressive résumé.
“I spent the past 14 years at Redwater where I was the head girls/boys cross country coach, head girls track coach, head tennis coach, assistant basketball coach and I even did some volleyball at the junior high level,” McMellon recalled. “For 12 consecutive years, I had individuals and/or teams competing at the State Cross Country Meet as well as athletes competing at the State Track Meet. I have had Regional Champions, both team and individuals, in cross country and track.”
“I was also a part of the girls’ program for basketball playoffs,” McMellon continued. “The past three years, I was the head tennis coach and we won the girls’ district championship, was runner-up and had several players (boys and girls) advance to the regional meet each year.”
With many years under your belt as a coach several memories can stick with an educator/coach for the rest of their lives, and this year will be no different for Coach McMellon.
“This year is memorable for all of the energy from not only the girls but from the coaching staff as a whole. A huge blessing has been the honor of working with my daughter, Coach Paige Grey, in her first year of coaching,” McMellon said. “Many memories have been shared between us. Oh, yeah, and a 14-0 district record makes for some great memories also. My girls are very hard working and not only do we share basketball, we share story time also. There is great respect from each side.”
So what did Coach McMellon say to the Lady Bulldogs during their first meeting?
“When the season first started, I asked the girls did they want to have fun or did they want to win? Didn’t matter to me but their answer would determine how I would coach. You cannot do both.” McMellon said. “The fun will come with a win but work must come first.”
“We also sat down and looked at some things Coach Heath Petten had done with them that they felt helped and together we incorporated two basketball programs into one,” McMellon stated “Coach Petten is a very good coach and person and I did not want the girls to think I was “replacing” him and all of the positive things he had taught them. So far, I guess we have done okay .We just go out there ‘Taking Care of Business’ in all that we do.”
Taking care of business has been a mainstay since the ladies started out the year especially with wins over big schools like Liberty-Eylau, Kilgore and Pittsburg.
It has been the number one reason why the Lady Bulldogs have won 15 straight games and haven’t lost a contest since Dec. 6.
That can be a testament to their growth.
“As far as growth, I have seen some great things happen at Queen City. Madi Jones did not play at all last year and CeCe Walker had very limited varsity playing time. These two post players are a major part of our team,” McMellon said. “Not only do they attack the boards, they have many deflections each game. Although not true steals, deflections mess up the opponent’s offense and allows for us to make quick steals from inbound passes.”
“These two have also figured out that they can score. The beginning of the year, neither would go back up for a shot after a rebound; however at the second Hooks’ match up, Madi had 16 points and CeCe 14 - awesome progress.,” McMellon added.
“Another growth factor has been in the evolving into a TEAM. We sat down one day and went over the stat sheet and what all is counted. I told them to be a great player you must “load” the stat sheet - have numbers in all columns including assists,” McMellon said. “Everyone can score in college and if you want to pursue the next level, you must show that you can rebound, play defense, and be unselfish when it comes to scoring. Our assists per game improved tremendously after this point.”
“Most people felt we would be a two person show as Jacie Lance and Jessica Jones are very gifted and talented players, but I think everyone found out that I put five girls on the court as one team and they all have a specific role to fill in order to be successful,” McMellon remarked. “This is the greatest growth and achievement for me.”
And what better growth for a young athlete than to buy in to the coach’s system and gel as a team?
“The one thing I admire about my girls is their desire to win. It does not matter who scores as long as the final score is a “W” for the Lady Bulldogs,” McMellon said. “They encourage each other and support whoever is on the court. Colleen Kilgore does not get a tremendous amount of playing time; however, she is the most supportive on the bench. I have never heard her be negative.”
“Jessica Jones has battled injury from time to time and she too is a great cheerleader on the bench - always encouraging and never complaining,” McMellon added. “Emily Maxwell is also a player to be admired. If basketball had a utility player, it would be Emily. I can put her in any position at any time and she does one heck of a good job.”
No greater honor is there for a coach than to have the respect and admiration of their players, and the Lady Bulldogs took their hard work from the weight room to the hard court.
The district gauntlet was wrought with tough teams from a 4-point win over a tough New Boston team QC beat twice, to 31-point wins over Hooks and Hughes Springs, but the determination brought the girls to a solid 14-0 record and the program’s first district title in more than 40 years when it was all said and done.
“14-0 - wow, I don’t think the girls thought they could do it,” McMellon said. “Tiera Johnson, who I depend on for quick hands and to keep us all upbeat, told me after the first round with New Boston that I (Coach Mac) was the only one who really thought we could beat New Boston. The confidence soared after this game.”
“We did have to remain humble and not get over confident. Everyone in the district was gunning for us at this point,” McMellon said. “This is a very deserving group of girls to go 14-0. They work hard and have developed into a team. After the McLeod game on Dec. 6, I did tell them we would not lose another game. They believe in their team - which is the biggest battle to success, just getting them to believe. This year was an amazing accomplishment for sure.”
It’s not as hard as an accomplishment when your athletes buy in, play as a team and take care of business.
Read Part 2 of this article in next week’s edition, which includes player commentary.