For the second straight year, the Patrick Henry Patriots and William Fleming Colonels girls basketball teams will compete for the region 5D championship.
And much more than a trophy will be on the line on Tuesday night.
“Literally since my freshman year, I’ve been playing, we have never beaten them and we played them tremendous times and we have never won and if we won, it would be amazing,” PH senior point guard Mariah Wilson said.
No one on the Patrick Henry roster has ever experienced a win over its city rival. And the team’s three seniors have one more shot to change that Tuesday night.
“It’s always a real high paced game. Kinda closer in skillset now,” Patriots senior guard Serena Lytton said. “My first two years, it’s always been an automatic blowout for them. They’d just come in and beat us. And then last year and this year, it’s been closer and closer.”
The Patriots lost by only six points to the Colonels at the Berglund Center in Januray. The players are riding a surge of confidence to the region 5D final.
“”If we’re not confident right now, Lord knows if we’re ever going to be,” second-year head coach Mike Hedrick said. “When you’re playing at this level, if you don’t believe you can do it, like if you don’t believe you can go out there and make the shots with all those people watching against a rival, against good teams, then you actually can’t. Whatever you think, that’s probably right and right now, we should be confident.”
The seniors say the team’s mentality changed when Hedrick took over the program.
“”Coach’s confidence within us and within the program that he could change it and change us. Just that he had confidence in us,” PH senior forward Syleah Manns said. “That’s the biggest factor that’s changed the culture and allowed us to have success and hopefully more success throughout the season.”
The Colonels will have home court advantage against their rival as they look to repeat last season’s success.
“I’m really excited,” WF sophomore guard Victoria Board said. “We went through this last year and the gym was so packed and I’m ready for all the fans to come.”
Fellow sophomore guard Shakara Anderson says she feeds off the energy from the crowd, especially when the two Roanoke city schools meet.
“It makes it very exciting and fun to play against our rival,” Anderson said.
But this time, the Colonels run is orchestrated under first-year head coach Richard Wilson.
“I inherited a seasoned team,” Wilson said. “They’ve been here before so they know what to expect and we’ve been preparing for this moment all season.”
No matter the outcome, both are headed to the state tournament. Each squad is happy to represent the city of Roanoke.
“At the end of the night, everyone is happy that these are kids that we’ve grown up knowing and they want to see us be successful, we want to see them be successful,” Hendrick said. “I just hope that we’re a little more successful Tuesday night than they are.”
Wilson, a 1997 graduate of William Fleming, is accustomed to the pressures of a rivalry game.
“Fleming is everybody’s championship game in my mindset so I always felt like we always have the target on our back and we embrace that,” Wilson said. “So we’re looking forward to the challenge.”