My teammates and coaches have been a second family to me throughout my years of playing sports. My high school basketball coach, Tim Kohs, and fellow senior year classmates are a huge inspiration to me. I enrolled in Mercy High School to challenge myself both academically and athletically. Mercy is a four-year all-girls Catholic High School founded on the traditions of Catherine McCauley that focuses on each individual student and enables them to reach their full potential physically, emotionally, and spiritually. To this day, I am very thankful for the many people I built relationships with at this school, but most importantly my coaches and teammates. The girl’s basketball program at Mercy is one of the most structured, rigorous, and successful teams in the state. Being committed to the Mercy Basketball program taught me characteristics that I have taken with me off the court. I learned how to be a leader but also be coachable, to respect and be respected, to be strong yet humble, and to follow directions but also be confident to make my own decisions.
When I entered high school, my skill level was hardly enough to earn a starting spot on the team. Coach Kohs saw my passion for the game and liked my work ethic so he invited me to many Varsity practices to help improve. I spent the summer leading up to my sophomore year picturing myself as a starter for Varsity and deservingly got the position the following November. My team went to three consecutive state championships and lost each year by three or two points. Over the summer I envisioned making it to the State Championship in the Mohegan Sun Arena. When the buzzer went off and the other team celebrated their win, I saw our senior captain Amber Bepko fall to the floor and cover her face. As my teammates walked to the bench I went over to her and lifted her off the floor.
The heartache and disappointment inspired me to work even harder the next season. Mercy Basketball could not beat the curse no matter how hard we worked. Losing in the finals year after year inspired myself and four other upperclassmen to make history our senior year. The leadership and inspiration came from our coach but also each of the 5 seniors we had on the team at the time. Maria, Sheena, Jordyn, Cassie and I came together to lead our team through one of the most competitive brackets in CIAC LL Girls Basketball that we had ever faced to bring us back to the championship. We were down by 2 points with 3.8 seconds left on the clock when Coach Kohs drew up our “homerun play”. My senior captain Maria Wesleyj hit a buzzer beater three pointer to bring home the gold for Team Mercy. When we received our gold medals, it signified more than first place, it stood for determination, hard work, and the life lesson of never giving up. After three years of a broken heart, I was finally enthused with a great deal of self-confidence. I realized that if I dig deep down deep enough I could accomplish anything; I’ll always find the motivation to never give up on the task at hand, other people, and most importantly, myself. I put my heart into each game and winning a championship was the biggest reward I have ever felt in return to working so hard. When they placed the medal around my neck, I felt all different types of emotions. I was proud of my team for persevering over the past four years, sad that my high school career was over, and humbled because I knew that the rest of my life would be somewhat comparable to this experience.
During my senior year, I created a sisterhood with my teammates that propelled us to work together and persevere to win a state championship. The newspaper named us the Fab Five and that title seemed to stick. To this day, we chat about all the great memories we have from Mercy. Coach Kohs has been the greatest influence in my life because he inspired me to pursue a coaching profession. His heart for coaching is seen in his dedication, passion, and commitment to Mercy Basketball. These intangible attributes are what I also feel played a large role in my desire to play collegiate basketball and furthermore coach after graduation. My dream to play basketball at a competitive level was inspired by his example. The way my coach served as a role model to me is exactly what I strive to be for younger generations.
Since 2013, each member of the Fab Five has continued to support Mercy basketball. We get together for holidays and reminisce about all the tough 2 hours practices full of running sprints. Maria’s buzzer beater shot was featured in American country music artist Brad Paisley’s music video of Today about a year ago. This past summer we were given VIP tickets to meet him and enjoy the concert! After all the tears and heartbreak we faced, to the shot that made history, all the way to seeing ourselves on the big screen behind Brad Paisley, the Fab Five has given me hope for a great future. In the end, we gained a friendship that will last a lifetime and the lesson of true perseverance that has motivated us to achieve our dreams.
Always keep in mind where you are headed in life, but never forget where you came from.