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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

No quit in this bunch of Lady Bobcats

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This group was not about to let a couple of early-season missteps dictate their ultimate fate.

Not this group of Thayer Lady Bobcats.

With two weeks of the 2009-10 season in the books, the Lady Bobcats' record was a less than impressive 3-2.

However, when all was said and done with the 2009-10 season, that same group of Lady Cats sported a very impressive 28-4 mark.

Even more impressive was the fact that Thayer finished as the second-best team in Class 2 hoops, right on the heels of Harrisburg.

After losing to Neelyville in the finals of the Van Buren Lady Dawg Classic, a loss they would avenge in the sectional round of the state playoffs, the Lady Bobcats fell to their Oregon County neighbors from Couch, six days after that loss to Neelyville. Thayer would later go on to get revenge on the Lady Indians by dropping them in the district tournament.

After that loss to Couch on Dec. 11, Thayer reeled off 10 straight victories. That streak would be snapped by the Ava Lady Bears, but after Thayer's only loss in South Central Association play, the Lady Cats racked up 15 straight wins, leading them to the pinnacle of the Class 2 State Championship.

And although Thayer's dream season ended short of a state title, this group of Lady Bobcats have plenty to be proud for, especially after making it to the state final four for the first time in school history.

"It's the first time in school history the girls have ever been to the final four and it's awesome," said Thayer Head Coach Cliff Hawkins. "That's a coach's and player's dream -- to get to come to the final four. That's what you work all summer and all year long for. Practicing long hours and then staying in the gym after practice and working on your game. That's what this is all about. It's just awesome."

Look at the core of most successful high school teams and you'll find a solid foundation of senior leadership.

This year's edition of Lady Bobcat basketball is no exception to that.

Samantha Oakes, Kaley Hebert and Whitney Mills were both the glue that held the team together and the motor that made the squad run.

That trio of players came up big all year long and for their efforts were rewarded with an unforgettable weekend in Columbia.

"At the beginning of the season, I never would have thought we'd have made it here, but it's been fun," said Oakes.

While a state title would have been sweet, second place isn't so bad, either.

"That's definitely the way to go out -- in the final four," Hebert said.

For Mills, it was her second straight trip to Mizzou Arena and spot in the state semi-final round.

Last year, playing for the Couch Lady Indians, Mills took to the University of Missouri Tigers' home hardwood for the first time, a trip that prepared her for this year's journey.

"I was definitely more nervous last year than this year," she said. "So being here last year helped me out a lot this year, especially with the nerves. I was more comfortable this year. But it's been a great year. Nobody really thought we'd make it this far, so it's been awesome"

A sentiment echoed by Hawkins.

"The last three years that I've been a part of girls' basketball here, we've won over 20 ballgames all three of those years. And I coached boys for 24 years and people ask me what's the difference between boys' and girls' basketball? Well, there's really no difference. The girls practice and play just like the guys, especially this year, or the last two. But it's a blast. I've enjoyed coaching both."

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