Reaching the state basketball tournament means the culmination of goals and the joy of fulfilling a dream.
Becky LeGate already knows those emotions as a player and as a coach.
Now she’s getting another dose. LeGate leads her 33-3 Christ Presbyterian Academy team into the Class AA girls tournament, which opens Wednesday at MTSU’s Murphy Center.
As a lanky 6-foot forward, the former Becky Gibbs led Greenbrier High to the AA state tournament in 1986 on the same MTSU floor. Playing for her father Weldon (Jake) Gibbs, the Bobcats reached the semifinals before losing a close game against No. 1 ranked South Greene and finishing 30-6.
“That’s something I’ll never forget,” said LeGate who is married to former Belmont standout Kevin LeGate. Their daughter, Faith, is CPA’s leading scorer.
“My father was the coach, my sister Cissy was a sophomore on the team, and my youngest sister Emily was the water girl,” LeGate, the leading scorer and the only senior on that team, said. “We beat Grundy County [47-36 in the quarterfinals], then we lost in the semis to South Greene [55-54] on a late shot after we had led the whole way.”
As a coach, LeGate took her Davidson Academy team, where she spent 15 years and won 300 games, to the DII-A state final four in 2009. She took the CPA job in May of 2010.
“It is amazing to still have family here with me for another state run with Kevin [her assistant coach] and Faith along,” she said.
Jake Gibbs is a constant follower of his daughter and granddaughter and attends most of the games.
“I’m so proud of Becky,” he said after CPA’s 53-44 sectional win over Page High Saturday. “It’s been so much fun watching her and Faith and how they’ve improved so much as the season has gone along.”
Added Faith, a 5-foot-11 junior, who scored 21 points Saturday: “It’s awesome, reaching our goal of getting to state. Not just for mom and dad but for the whole school.”
“All season long, we’ve aimed for the state championship game,” Lauren Thompson, a 6-foot-1 shot blocker who scored 12 points Saturday, said. “We’re so close. All the work we’ve put in is paying off. I can’t wait.”
Becky LeGate had some fond memories when she attended the coaches’ pairings meeting Sunday in Murfreesboro.
“You know, I looked around the room and I saw so many coaches whom I remember from state tournaments growing up,” she said. “There was Joe Sims at Celina who took me under his wing and helped me when I started coaching when he didn’t need to give me the time of day. So many others.”
Her team has a formidable foe for its tournament opener — a quarterfinal matchup with No. 6 ranked Memphis Manassas (31-3), 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. CPA is unranked.
“They [Manassas] have an outstanding team, they’re very athletic and they really get up and down the floor at a high pace,” LeGate said. “They also have a 6-2 post player. We’ll have our hands full.
“They also have the experience of being in last year’s tournament. They got to the quarterfinals before losing by two to Macon County, which got to the finals.”
The Lions’ last appearance at the state tournament was 2010, Mike Ellson’s final season as coach before he took over as athletics director. They lost to eventual champ Gibson County 55-35 and finished 32-5.
Their coach has plenty of state tournament experience, though.