After three seasons of mostly downs, Alexis Lang is finally getting to enjoy the happiness and rewards of winning basketball.
Coming out of the Christmas break, the 5-foot-6 Whites Creek High senior guard has sparked her team to a 10-3 record and a spot near the top of the district standings. She also has waved goodbye three straight losing seasons.
“Going through those bad times, I knew if our team stuck together there would be some good days ahead,” Lang said during a break in the Overton Christmas Tournament. “We came into the season with a mindset of ‘unfinished business,’ that’s our motto.
“After we lost a couple of games (in the Overton tourney), we said, ‘Lesson learned,’ and to keep improving.’’
Lang leads the Cobras in virtually every key statistic — 15.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Equally important are her leadership qualities on and off the court.
The Cobras went 8-18, 10-15 and 7-21 her first three varsity seasons, respectively, and were district laughingstocks. Times are changing.
“This is definitely the best team I’ve played on at Whites Creek, and it’s the most fun I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Lang, one of four seniors, said.
Included in Whites Creek’s portfolio was a recent victory over Lipscomb Academy, a team used to finishing high in District 10-AA.
“That was the first time we had beaten them since I’ve been there,” Lang said. “We all played well, and I knew then we had a good team.”
Two reasons for the surge came when point guard Dereese Owens transferred from Maplewood, and the post game became immediately better when 6-foot Denisha Bowman moved in from Texas.
“Dereese and I have been playing on AAU teams together and the same teams since the fifth grade,” Lang said. “I was so glad we’re playing together again.”
The catalyst for the upswing is fourth-year coach Antoine Buchanan, a former four-sport star (football, basketball, wrestling, baseball) at Antioch where he finished in 1990. He played for Nashville legends Warren Dunn in football (he played on Dunn’s final team) and Ronnie Wilson in baseball, then later current San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh on Western Kentucky’s football team.
“I knew Alexis was going to be special when I first coached her at Creswell Middle School and were city champions,” Buchanan, 40, said. “Our freshmen team finished third in the city, so we knew we were going to have some success. We have core group of seniors who have been key for us. Alexis is the type player who can score the ball, get the ball to open players, set good picks and dive to the floor for a loose ball. She’s a very smart player.
“We’ve had some ups and downs, and we really took some lumps in those first three years. But these girls have played a lot of summer ball, AAU, and it’s given them a lot of experience.”
Lang’s scoring is down a bit from the 19 points per game she averaged last year when she had to carry the team more offensively. She recently scored her 1,000th career point.
“It came on Dec. 5, that was pretty special, I didn’t know I was that close,” she said. “It was something I needed to share with my teammates.”
Lang definitely wants to continue playing in college. She currently lists Walters State, Evansville and Cumberland as schools that have drawn her interest.
“It likely will be one of those three,” she said.
Until then, she wants to continue to lead her current team further in its magical season.
“There’s no telling how far we can go if we stick together and play like we can,” she said.
• East wins big: Behind a monster 28-point game by Terry Holt, East Nashville thumped host Overton 70-48 late Saturday night to win the Overton Christmas Tournament boys championship.
“However many points I scored didn’t matter, I just wanted to do what I could to help my team win,” the 6-foot-3 junior said after the game. “We wanted to play aggressively, work hard on defense, give it all we had. I think our defense was better than in the first game.”
It was a far cry from East’s 67-66 win over Overton the week before when the Eagles won on a late basket.
In coach James McKee’s four seasons, Overton won the tournament twice (2009, 2010) and has been runner-up the past two seasons.
In one of the top games of the tournament, East Nashville beat BGA 39-36 in overtime in Friday’s semifinals. BGA rallied late behind post player Brian Dangerfield who scored five points late to tie the score.
• No legends here: Battle Ground Academy assistant William Belliford came up with one of the top motivational lines of the Overton prior to the Wildcats’ first-round win over McAdory, Ala., former school of Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson.
“We said to relax, because Bo Jackson is not walking through that door,” Belleford said laughing. “Thank goodness, he didn’t.”
The Wildcats, who ultimately finished third, won the game.
• Hillsboro doubles up: Hillsboro won two championships Saturday when the Burro boys and girls both claimed the big trophies.
Hillsboro’s boys (13-1) beat Independence 73-62 in the finals of the Father Ryan Invitational as 6-foot-8 senior Jamontae Davis poured in 27 points and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.
Just down the street, Hillsboro’s girls ended the Cinderella ride of Martin Luther King with a 48-47 overtime win in the finals of the Overton Christmas Invitational. Center Nicole Bowers led the Burros (14-3) with 20 points.
In both its first-round and semifinal games, MLK rallied from far down to pull out one-point wins over Overton and Lipscomb Academy, respectively. The Royals forced overtime in the second game after they trailed by seven in the final minute. Sydney Sims tallied 17 to lead MLK (9-2), which had three one-point decisions in the tourney.