Eagles cruise in coronation

Young team one win away from perfect region run

Special to The StateFebruary 5, 2013 

Airport girls basketball coach Trey Wallace has been waiting a career for the school’s first-ever region championship.

The 14-year veteran coach at Airport accomplished that feat with Friday’s victory over Gilbert, the school’s first region crown since girls basketball became a varsity sport for the 1974-75 season. After the Eagles’ 68-29 dismantling of Midland Valley on Monday night ran their winning streak to 10, they are one game away from completing an unbeaten run through Region 5-3A.

Athletics director Kirk Burnett presented Wallace, who has coached for 19 years total, with the region championship trophy at halftime of the boys game and also gave Wallace the region coach of the year honor as well.

“I’ve been coaching 19 years, and I told our team last Friday night that I’ve been waiting 19 years to understand what the feeling is all about,” Wallace said. “All my coaching buddies have done it and dadgum it, it would be nice to at least get one. We did what we had to do, and it’s a testament to this team and how hard they’ve worked.”

The historic accomplishment has not been lost on his young team, which starts one junior and four sophomores.

“Coach Wallace has been telling us we’re on the verge of making history for a while,” sophomore post-player Lexy Conyers said. “It’s a great feeling for us to be so young and be so successful. The coaches have pushed us a lot harder, and we’ve grown to want to win.”

Wallace’s team lacked experience, and the non-region portion of the schedule was a learning experience for him and his team. They stumbled to a 4-8 record, but Wallace was confident this group would find their way.

“I told them at the beginning of the season that it would take them a little while for them to get to know my style and for me to get to know their style,” Wallace said. “They had a good run on JV, and I left them all together to feel some success because obviously we were struggling last year. They are competitive and give us all they got. They don’t like to lose. Things are starting to fall into place a little bit.”

Airport (14-8, 9-0) showed the growth early against the Mustangs (7-14, 4-5).

The Eagles jumped to a 18-4 lead from the opening tip and never was challenged. They knocked down 8-of-11 shots from the field during that opening run while forcing Midland Valley into nine turnovers on its first 12 possession. They used a 1-2-2 half-court trap to harass the Mustangs into 34 turnovers.

“We’re going to press,” Wallace said. “It’s been good to us, and I’m a firm believer that if it’s not broke don’t change it. We’ll see where it takes us.”

Kayla Sutton scored 16 points and Taylor Payne added 14 points as all 10 Airport players scored. Wallace substituted liberally, and the Eagles held the Mustangs to nine points in the second half after holding a 17-point lead at the half.

The Eagles close out the regular season Wednesday against rival Brookland-Cayce. They then will host a first-round playoff game Monday.

MV: Alexis Bates 14, Gunter 4, W. Campbell 3, Dunbar 2, B. Campbell 2. Chandler 2, Abney 2. A: Kayla Sutton 16, Taylor Payne 14, Conyers 8, Fludd 7, Strickland 7, Mansell 5, McCray 4, Coburn 4, Williams 2, Seawright 1.

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