Merrol Hyde's Peyton Mingle, left, and Olivia Short share a laugh during Thursday night's game.

Merrol Hyde's Peyton Mingle, left, and Olivia Short share a laugh during Thursday night's game.

HENDERSONVILLE - Four years ago, there was no Merrol Hyde girls' basketball program. 

Fast forward to this season, and the Lady Hawks are cutting down the nets as the District 7-A regular-season champion. 

Finishing 10-0 during the regular season, Merrol Hyde earned the district's top overall seed in the upcoming tournament on February 21 at Merrol Hyde. 

"These girls have worked so hard to get to this point," coach Jimmy Steen said. "The locker room after the victory over Valor was so great. This team has embraced it all and has had a lot of fun this season."

The district championship is the first regular-season or tournament championship in school history, and after not having a program during the 2016-2017 season to coming this far is truly remarkable. 

"When I came over from DCA, I knew I wasn't starting a program from scratch, but it kinda was," Steen said. "That was exciting for me. I knew what I was getting into, and I knew the administration would be wonderful to work with." 

The Lady Hawks program participation dwindled in the two years before not having a team for one season, but since bringing back the program in 2017-2018, Steen says that the numbers and participation have been excellent and that he couldn't ask for more. 

"We had 14 girls sign up on day one," Steen said. "These girls have worked so hard and are so wonderful to coach. They will do anything you ask of them."

In their first year after 2016-2017, the TSSAA reclassified Merrol Hyde to play in a district more suitable to their school size. 

Instead of playing the likes of Trousdale County, Gordonsville, and Goodpasture, Merrol Hyde now took on schools more like them in terms of size and academic standards. 

The team went on to win seven games, which was good enough for second in the district and a region berth. 

Last year the team continued to improve but was hit with three season-ending injuries, and with a school the size of Merrol Hyde, the Lady Hawks could not overcome the adversity. 

Despite the hardships, Merrol Hyde qualified for the region tournament for a second-year in-a-row. 

Over the offseason, the team and coaches committed to winning more. They committed to working harder, and it has certainly paid off. 

"Our motto this year was to raise our expectations," Steen added.

During the second district game of the season, Merrol Hyde found themselves down seven in the second half but pulled out the victory to improve to 2-0 in league play. That win has catapulted the team to new heights, according to Steen.

"I think that win gave them the belief they could do it," Steen said. "After that, we would come in the locker room following a win, and I would ask them what was better (than our current record), and they would say, '5-0, 6-0, 7-0, on so on'."

The perfect 10-0 district season has already qualified Merrol Hyde for the region tournament. Still, as their season motto states, the team wants to raise expectations and get to the sub-state round, a position the school has never been before. 

Merrol Hyde will host the winner of KIPP and Valor in round two at 7 p.m. on February 21. 

 

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