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GIRLS' PREP BASKETBALL: State champs return to Elizabethtown (01/05)

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By Nathaniel Bryan

 

By NATHANIEL BRYAN nbryan@thenewsenterprise.com ELIZABETHTOWN Brandi Newton coaches girls’ basketball at LaRue County High School, while Katrina (Leary) Johnson coaches volleyball at North Hardin. But for one night, they were teammates again. Newton and Johnson were two of several players who came back home Saturday night to Elizabethtown High School’s Charlie Rawlings Memorial Gymnasium as the Lady Panther program honored its 1998 state tournament championship team prior to their game against visiting 17th District rival John Hardin. “I’d like to thank the John Hardin players and coaches, because they were very gracious to us,” said Elizabethtown coach Tim Mudd. Team members that season were seniors Kristina Covington, Patrice Lucas and Dana (Schubeler) McCurry, juniors Karie Critcheloe, Falesha Robertson, Katie Todd and Carrie-Kay Twyman, sophomores Nicole Rightmyer, Becky Schubeler and Johnson and freshmen Kim Thomas, Jenny Todd, Pam Walters and Newton. They were coached by Mudd, Steven Nall, Paul Mullins, Donnie Swiney, Joey Stewart and Jackie Mullin. Robertson, the state tournament’s Most Valuable Player, was in Kansas City and couldn’t make the trip. Even the three managers – Dia Johnson, Kelly Russell and Kenneisha Walker – and ballgirl Megan Hatfield were honored as Elizabethtown paid homage to a 29-3 team which won the school’s first state basketball championship for either gender. Newton said she remembered everyone’s face. “That wasn’t a problem,” she said. “We’ve all changed a little, but not that much.” There was a dinner banquet prior to a midcourt ceremony and video tribute. Following the projector screen highlights, Covington, Lucas and McCurry joined Mudd in the left corner near the Lady Panthers’ locker room, where the four unfurled a vertical white championship banner. The banner matches the 2000 boys’ state tournament wall hanging in the right side of the gym. Johnson said it didn’t take the group long to get back to its old ways. “It was almost like things hadn’t changed,” she said. “We were back to laughing and doing what we always did.” One thing has changed though: A few of the players are parents now. “I think I recognized everyone,” Johnson said. “I don’t think we’ve all changed a lot over the years. But there are babies now.” Johnson said the ceremony was the type of thing that makes Elizabethtown’s athletic tradition so strong. “It was a really nice night,” she said. “Me and my husband (Micah) were talking about this before it got started and we both agreed this is what helps carry on that E’town tradition: They don’t forget.” Johnson has juggled motherhood and coaching while teaching her Lady Trojans on the volleyball court. While Johnson and McCurry agreed that many of the players’ schedules revolve around family now, Newton said it wasn’t all that different in 1998. “It’s a bit different because basketball is what was going on with our lives then,” she said. “Now, it’s family instead of basketball. But at the same time, it’s almost like back then because our basketball team was our family.” Nathaniel Bryan can be reached at 505-1758