The Atkins Lady Red Devils are defying the odds as they are starting four sophomores yet they are winning at a high clip. Usually, when a team starts that many young players those teams are looking to the future. Not Atkins, their future is right in front of them. It helps when you have young players that know how to win.
Last season the Lady Red Devils sophomores, as junior high players, won the conference championship with a 20-3 record along with the district tournament championship. Meanwhile, the senior high team was struggling to an 8-41 record over two seasons. How quickly the tables have turned as the Lady Red Devils has jumped out to their best start with a 10-2 record. Coach Kuhn is enjoying a stable full of players this year. He attributes much of the success to the very talented group of sophomores. “I’ve got talented seniors and I have got two juniors on the team—that was all we had last year. Last year, we had one person on the bench so having that help has been a tremendous help to the seniors and juniors we have and we are just loving every minute of it.”
It does not take long to figure out the success of this team. The Lady Devils are team-minded. The lone senior in the starting lineup Mary Kate Brown said with a huge smile on her face, “it feels really good to win and compete—we all understand our role on the team.” Brown feels that the sophomores pushing everybody in practice has been the main reason for the team’s success this season. “the seniors and juniors practicing against the sophomores has made us work harder and make our skills better.” When a team has younger players taking the spots of the older players there is usually some jealousy sophomore Lindsey Cox says, “It’s hard to believe that this team has little to no conflict at all. These girls are like family to me—they understand that every single girl has a part.” Fellow sophomore Pe’Lar Handie added, “We work as a really good team—individually our skills are good, but as a team we all get better.”
The Two Rivers victory (52-42) on December 7 is the crown jewel of the season so far. Many considered the Lady Gators the team to beat in the 3A-4 conference along with Lamar. Senior Mary Brown said, “Two Rivers is a very good team and everyone knows they are a really good team—everyone picks them to win every year so being the underdog, coming through and getting that win was a really good feeling for all of us.”
Even with a great start Atkins has a tough road ahead of them due to the strength of the conference. Lamar, Two Rivers, Paris and Jessieville are always tough. Lamar and Atkins are tied at the top of the conference both undefeated and meet January 8, 2019. This week the Lady Red Devils will try to extend that great start with two home games before the Christmas Break. They will play both Fountain Lake and Heber Springs at home before playing in the Wildcat Classic during the break. The Lady Red Devils take pride in the turn around of their program, and are focused and ready to continue into tournament time in February and March.