Mark Woolard won't soon forget this season.
The Hartshorne girls basketball coach was saddened as he and his team prearped to compete in the state tournament before it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. He will remember this season for quite some time and knows the same can be said of his fellow coaches across the country.
"Congrats to the ones that made it through this year, because it was like no other,” said Woolard, who is the 2020 McAlester News-Capital Girls Basketball All-Area Coach of the Year.
Woolard said this past season has seen its share of highs and lows.
"Every season’s going to have some ups and downs,” Woolard said. "The two years we had prior were really hard to explain record-wise.”
Hartshorne was invited to this year’s Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic in Ada. During a game, senior Holli Lindley suffered an injury. The Lady Miners would lose the next three games, and Woolard said the season seemed up in the air.
"We kind of had a bunch of question marks,” he said. “We practiced through christmas, didn’t get a break. It was definitely a low point. You’re looking at them and you know what kind of team you got, but boy there were question marks.”
But what happened next, Woolard attributes to the tenacity of his players and more than a few tough days in the gym.
"I give it to the girls. There were some unpleasant practices and getting their heads back above water,” Woolard said. "You could just see the urgency. It was such a vast difference in the way they carried themselves.”
Mentioning the likes of seniors Lindley and Ozzlyn Lightle, among others, Woolard said he’s been blessed with the quality of players and work ethic he has seen in his time at Hartshorne.
The Lady Miners responded with a fury of something to prove, and fought their way over the competition to earn a spot in the state tournament for the third year in a row.
However, the end of the season will forever be unknown as the coronavirus pandemic shut down the state tournament mere hours before Hartshorne was set to compete.
But despite all of the question marks that were left, Woolard is still proud of the program. He’s had players see success even after high school, and doesn’t think the Lady Miners will be going away anytime soon.
"That’s been the blessing about Hartshorne. We’ve got girls that play basketball across the state,” Woolard said. "It’s amazing how they’ve all just bought in and it’s been special."
Contact Derek Hatridge at email@example.com