7th grade Lady Bulldogs aim to make placing at state a new tradition

MAHOMET — Jimmy Lanphear didn't expect a magical season like this. So, after his MSJH seventh-grade Lady Bulldogs lost to Hickory Creek 23-10 in the IESA Class 4A third-place game, Lanphear walked into the locker room with one message: "I'm so proud of you."

Lanphear was proud of his team for fighting through adversity all season long. The Lady Bulldogs don't have a true point guard but never used that as an excuse.

Lanphear was proud of his team for fighting back from a double-digit deficit in the sectional championship against Effingham. He was proud of his team for finding their form after losing five games in October.

"They've really proved themselves to a lot of people," Lanphear said. "Despite the fact that we lost the last game, it sets the tone for next year that we've really grown as a program. We can compete at the state level."

Like they did all season long, Claire Seal and Sydney Young led the way in scoring, but the Bulldogs weren't able to overcome a large early deficit in the loss to Hickory Creek.

"First quarter just hurt us a lot," Lanphear said. "They had a really tall girl, and I thought we might be able to handle her better in man-to-man, but in hindsight, we should have gone to our zone earlier. But we also went cold. We weren't able to get that key shot to fall for us to get a rally going."

M-S finished with a fourth-place finish and a 17-9 record. After playing at a .500 clip in October, the Bulldogs bounced back in November, losing just one game. That gave them confidence heading into the postseason where the magic got started.

"That was really big for us," Lanphear said. "Win one, lose one. Win two, lose two. To get on a streak was huge for us. We got confident and knowing that if we were down or it was close, that we had what it took to finish the win, was huge."

Seal put the team on her back often throughout the season, and Lanphear believes she has an extremely bright future.

"I think it was really big for her confidence," Lanphear said. "(Seal) had more confidence towards the end of the season, being able to weather through some storms and find some success there and feel like she can take the load of the team on her shoulders. That experience is going to pay off later when she gets into high school.

"She's got the determination to be as good as she wants to be. She's driven and she's tough on herself, but I think once she gets a chance not to have to handle the ball all the time, she could do some big things."

Young had a huge layup that tied the game late in regulation against Effingham. M-S ended up beating Effingham 32-29 in overtime thanks to Young's heroics.

"(Young) is a pretty aggressive defender and she's pretty quick," Lanphear said. "She'll jump on the ball, and it's really good for us to build momentum. And she developed even more confidence in her three-point shot. It really helped us with some rallies and solidifying some leads. Her energy, speed and quickness were a big help."

But Young and Seal weren't the only ones.

"Sydney McKinney has always been a good presence for us down in the post," Lanphear said. "Her defense being able to play big down low has been a huge help for us. She's a very good leader. She encourages the girls and is very vocal.

"The other girls play their roles. Nadia (Biegler) will play tough defense, Ava (Henderson) will make good passes. Lauren (Burr) has some good length and will be able to attack the basket at times."

Overall, the Lady Bulldogs were able to put together one of the best seasons of all time at Mahomet-Seymour Junior High School.

Want to build a winning high school program?

Have success in middle school. That's exactly what the Bulldogs are starting to build.

"We think winning will breed more winning," Lanphear said. "Not only in our sport but also in volleyball as they start to try out for that. I think they've set a bar for themselves. I'm also looking for them to set the bar for the incoming seventh-graders next year. We have won back-to-back regional championships. We want to make this an annual tradition of us winning."


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