Familiar territory

First Posted: 3/22/2009

For the second time in three seasons the East Surry girls basketball team came up just short of doing what any team who laces up their sneakers night in and night out hopes to do end their season with a win.
While the Cardinals fell once again to the buzzsaw that is Bishop McGuinness (four straight 1-A girls championships) in the Western Regional final, the girls of East Surry had nothing to hang their heads about and didnt.
The late-season loss and the turmoil surrounding coach Robert Smiths early departure from the team did not diminish the Cardinals acheivements in the 2008-2009 season. Finishing 26-6 with three of those losses coming to eventual state champion McGuinness (two others to county rivals Mount Airy and North Surry), East continued the tradition which Smith worked to establish over his 20-plus year career at the school.
This season the Cardinals were a veteran group, led by seniors Courtney Simmons, Lekita Shuff and Paige Honeycutt and anchored by Northwest 1-A Conference player of the year junior Kelsey Long.
Simmons was tagged as an all-conference performer for her slashing and aggressive style, while Shuff and Honeycutt made their presence known throughout the year, both picking up an all-conference honorable mention honors.
Shuff came up big when it counted, scoring a team-high 17 points in a sectional final win Mount Airy, while Honeycutt picked up all-tournament honors along with sophomore Autumn Cole in the Northwest 1-A conference tournament.
Smith said Simmons, who served as the vocal leader both on and off the court for the Cardinals this season, will be a hard piece to replace.
She is pretty much fearless, he said. Having played varsity for the past 3 1/2 years she kind of knows what to expect and that has certainly helped us all year long. Shes been big for us and she is going to be very difficult to replace.
As for Long, Smith said the versitile guard/forward gained respect from opposing coaches this season with her steady play and ability to do just about anything asked of her.
I think the other coaches around the league have seen her mature and improve and she just plays hard, Smith said. She goes out, shes not real fancy, but you look at the box score and she is always going to be very consistent. She has kind of a calming effect. I think a lot of the kids look to her and have a lot of respect for her as a player and a person.
With some big highs and low lows, the East Surry girls will no doubt look back on this season fondly.
Smith, who finished his career with the Sectional final win over Mount Airy, said he thinks the success of the team rests squarely on the players and the assistant coaches around them who work to create the team idea which have given the Cardinals so much success.
I have to give all those folks credit because they make me look good, Smith said. I get out there and kind of get the attention because I stomp around and look like a fool sometimes, but they are really the brains behind it and they have helped me tremendously. I could never repay them for all they have done for me.
Smith said all-in-all he thinks the Cardinals showed poise in dealing with obstacles thrown their way during the season and hoped the winning ways of East Surry girls basketball will continue into the future.
Thats what sports teaches you, to deal with adversity and I thought the kids handled it well, Smith said. I am hoping that the younger kids who are coming back will continue the tradition that we have built. If they could do anything that would kind of be a gift to me it would be to continue what weve built and I hope they can do that.

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