After Waite’s 61-55 Division I state semi-final win over Kettering Fairmont last weekend at Ohio State’s Value City Arena, the Indians took it easy Saturday while three other championship games were being played.
“We had a little shoot around early, about one o’clock,” Coach Manny May said. “We had lunch, we had breakfast, and just relaxed because we had Fairmont the night before, so we just wanted to let them relax their legs and be still a little bit. That’s all we did. Nothing drastic, nothing hard, just relax and keep your mind at ease.”
Senior Natasha Howard said, “We went out to eat, and chilled as a team. We had a team meeting about the next team and after that we had a little practice again and worked on what we needed to do with that team and what they will be doing.”
Despite losing 49-47 to Canton McKinley in the championship, everyone involved said the trip home was enjoyable.
“You know, we lost it, but it was a whole joy, a pleasure, just to be around them and see them fight through that — they’ll have adversity in their lives and on the basketball court,” May said.
Senior Mariah Haynes said, “We just enjoyed ourselves because on top of all the work you want to have fun. You don’t want to just be doing all work and then it’s like stressful to us, so we just kept together. We didn’t have our cell phones, you know, because we didn’t want to have distractions from the outside. We just had fun and enjoyed ourselves, even after the loss, because it was our last time together so we really didn’t want to be sad.”
Haynes said the stage was set for this 12 ago, when Coach May arrived on the scene. It was reset years later when now-graduated guard Shareese Ulis arrived at Waite.
“It was a whole bunch of stuff done before us, and we had a whole lot of benefit from what happened before us, like New Jersey (AAU) and things coming in and stuff like that,” Haynes said. “So we didn’t want to just take off that and not progress off of that — we wanted to build off of that,” Haynes said. “We didn’t get it all the way — we didn’t win the state, but the next time, next year, maybe they can win the state, and build upon what we brought to them.”
May said the juniors are hungry to keep this going — make girls basketball at Waite a perennial power known statewide.
“They are going to want to fight. Bottom line, they will take some time off to get some piece of mind and then they’ll be ready to get back into the game,” May said. “I think (junior) Shanice (McNeal) will really push this next team to another level, because they are going to want to put the work in for that.”
Junior point guard Brooke Hunt said, “It just makes us hungrier. It makes us want to win states. It just shows us that you can accomplish anything, and it just makes you want to be there now riding it again.”
May is leaving for Columbus next week to watch Howard play in the McDonald’s All-American All-Star Game, again at Value City Arena, while Howard and assistant coach Gardner Howard were to leave over the weekend.
After that, the coaching staff gets the program up and running again.
“We run a lot of things ourselves. They’ll be playing some, but once June and July comes we run a lot together, and then we break again. Some will run track, and some will do some AAU ball in the next month,” May said.
Hunt said she will miss Howard next season.
“That’s my sister. I’m going to miss her so much but I know she’s going to do well at Florida State and represent Toledo and show her true talents down there,” Hunt said.
Howard says she is passing on the responsibility of keeping the program strong to three juniors.
“By making it to the championship game, I hope it brings a lot of confidence to Waite High School,” Howard said. “I told Brooke Hunt, Shanice McNeal, and Jasmine Hamden, ‘All three of you have got to be the leaders now. You’ve got to build the program to be bigger than it is now.’”
McNeal acknowledged the task at hand.
“I will miss all the seniors because we had a lot of fun. It’s going to be hard. I’ve got to keep my team together and be a family,” McNeal said.