Centreville’s Wally Horton has coached both boys and girls basketball for 22 years. He’s seen quite a few wins, quite a few losses, program reclamations and programs struggling to find direction.
But one thing Horton hasn’t seen all that much of is a group like the one he coached for the last time on Tuesday night. With a 44-38 loss to Chantilly in the Concorde District quarterfinals, the Centreville girls basketball team’s season came to a crashing halt.
The Wildcats concluded the year with a 12-10 record, but the wins and losses aren’t what Horton will remember most. Alysha Watson, Kate Vennergrund, Jessica Ferrick, Victoria Marvin and Erin Ryan were all sophomores when Horton took first over.
Centreville hadn’t had a winning season in five years and those players, according to Horton, were chiefly responsible for the Wildcats’ turnaround.
“In terms of commitment to each other, chemistry, working together and loving each other, this is the best group of kids I’ve ever had,” Horton said. “They’re all competitors at heart. They all want to succeed.
“But they have what I think is a real healthy view of the bigger picture — that when you commit to something, you sell out. You give it your best.”
That first year Centreville was 14-7. The next was even better, as the Wildcats went 19-5 and Horton was named the Concorde District’s Coach of the Year for the second straight season and was also recognized as the Northern Region’s Coach of the Year.
And this season, Vennergrund, a first team All-Concorde District selection, was the team’s leading scorer at 12.5 points per game. She also grabbed an average of 5.5 rebounds per game. Marvin, another three-year starter, added nine points per game this season.
Ferrick, who like Ryan was praised by Horton for her blue-collar work ethic, is starting for the first year but has provided a spark with her energy and defense.
“She’s never seen a loose ball she didn’t go after,” Horton said of Ferrick.
Alysha Watson sacrificed her own personal stats to solidify the team’s point guard spot, limiting herself to only 27 turnovers prior to the Chantilly game.
But again, despite any of the honors or wins that his team achieved, Horton will instead be coming to practice everyday with Watson, Vennergrund, Ferrick, Marvin and Ryan.
As the third-year coach likes to say, quoting the words of Cervantes which were later made famous by legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, “The journey is greater than the inn,” meaning those practices, to Horton at least, are what will be missed the most.
“You win games and lose games, but the toughest part about [Tuesday] is the finality of it with this group of seniors,” Horton said. “We said all along that the journey is greater than the inn, and I wouldn’t trade the journey for anything with these girls.”