This past week we saw Tri-Village High School beat two lesser teams in girls basketball.  Both scores, to the ill-informed, seemed like overkill.  I did write a column on this and explained what happened.  The short explanation is that Tri-Village girls were just better even though they played everybody!  There are those who cannot accept that for an answer; Tri-Village cheated somehow, recruited their players, played their starters and kept one young lady, Rylee Sagester, in so she could get the 3-point scoring record. (what coach wouldn’t allow someone to set a state record?…..get real!)

I got the chance to talk to Coach Brad Gray about this today, because I know he has heard this and wanted his side of the story told.  Brad has coached for a while, and has seen and heard it all.  As a coach, you are constantly under the watchful eye of Moms and Dads, Fans, A.D’s, school boards, and even other coaches.

As with most coaches I know, Brad is aware of what is said about him and his program. He also is like most coaches I know and couldn’t care less what fans think about him.  What bothers him is what is being said about his girls.

“I talked to Gaylen and he said the people he talked to weren’t even at the game, and they are formulating an opinion.  I would hope that most of the people in the county would celebrate our success.  When we’re not playing I want to see all of our county schools do good. I feel like I have to speak up a little bit on the topic because it’s gotten to the point where they are criticizing our kids and that for me is frustrating. I think our kids do things the right way, they’ve worked really hard, they approach the game the way it should be approached, put a ton of time into it, are extremely dedicated, and I think if you watch our kids play, you see a group of kids who have respect for their opponents, and respect for the game. So many kids today are ‘Look at me’, the antics after making a shot and such.  You will never see a kid that plays for me act like their shooting an arrow, or hold up three fingers, I mean our kids don’t do that. Our kids have great respect for the other kids, their teammates and others and it has gotten past the point of criticizing me, and criticizing 14 to 18 year old girls who I think have done everything right!”

Spoken like a true coach, and father of young girls’ who is trying to do all the right things, and he is accomplishing that. We talked a lot about the game and others, and I am more impressed by Brad as a father and leader, trying to teach young ladies about dedication, hard work and how to succeed.

He told me that 14 of the games they played this year had a running clock in the second half, and that was even against Division I teams. This is an exceptional group of talented young ladies who are fortunate enough to want to work hard and listen to a coach who is doing the right things for the team, his school, and the community.

For outsiders and haters to denigrate someone or some group that is reaching for excellence is a pity.  Everybody in Darke County should be rooting for these young ladies.  I know I root for all of our county teams, because the goal of excellence is to be admired, not scorned because your team didn’t accomplish it.  Watch the good programs here in the county and you will watch kids doing their best, working hard, and at the same time learning what it takes to be successful.  Let’s support that! That is what our youth need.

Brad and I, along with Gaylen Blosser, talked for almost an hour, and I enjoyed every minute.  I can tell you that the community of New Madison is fortunate to have such a coach as him. Brad will also tell you that his community and school board are completely behind the programs they have.  All schools and communities should get behind their students like that!

So, let’s put this nonsense to rest; Tri-Village does not recruit, they have ladies with exceptional talent this year, and they do not cheat in any manner or form.  If you weren’t at the game, do not listen to rumors from people who are jealous of success.  Let’s try to be supportive of young ladies, in our county, home grown girls, who are trying to bring home a State Championship to their School.

We should all want to celebrate their success, that should be our goal.  Good luck ladies, and Coach, keep doing things the right way and good things will happen…… and girls, don’t listen to the haters…..they don’t count anyway!  That’s the way I see it, from the sidelines.

Mike Stegall (L) and Tri-Village Lady Patriots basketball coach, Brad Gray. (Gaylen Blosser photo)