The losing streak had reached 312 games, dating back about a dozen years, when most of the players were toddlers. The girls on the floor for Carroll Academy on Friday night had nothing to do with the start of the streak, or the hundreds of losses since 2005.
But they put an end to it, using two overtimes to get there, in a small gym in Huntington, Tenn. The Lady Jaguars beat Immaculate Conception Cathedral, a small private school in Memphis, 29-27, ending what is presumed to be the longest high-school losing streak in the country.
It is a day school operated by the Carroll County Juvenile Court, which sends troubled teens there as a safety net. Some have run afoul of the law, from petty crimes to drug use. Others have a history of truancy or have been kicked out of their home schools for disciplinary reasons. Many are from impoverished, broken homes. All have landed at Carroll Academy as a last chance at completing a high-school education. The school has about 100 students in a typical year. A large majority of them are boys.
Most girls are encouraged to play on the basketball team, coached most seasons by Randy Hatch, the school’s administrator. He was the coach the last time the Lady Jaguars won, and he was on the sideline, co-coaching with his daughter, Hayley, on Friday night.
The Lady Jaguars, sometimes with barely enough girls to compete, and rarely with players experienced in basketball, are routinely on the losing end of laughably lopsided scores. Each season, Hatch sees one or two games on the schedule where he believes, just maybe, the streak could end. One of those games came on Thursday night. Carroll Academy lost, 40-29, one of the closer defeats of the losing streak.
This year’s team, however, has one of west Tennessee’s top 3-point shooters, a senior named Kaitlyn Evans. She scored 22 points on Friday, including a 3-pointer at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime.
“Everybody’s bawling, and Hayley cried when it went to overtime,” Hatch said in a phone interview. “To them, 22-22, that’s pretty remarkable.”
Hatch told everyone to calm down. The first overtime decided nothing, but Evans put Carroll Academy ahead in the final minute of the second overtime. Immaculate Conception Cathedral could not score again, the buzzer sounded, and Carroll Academy’s court filled with girls sharing hugs and tears.
“The girls were bawling and grabbing and holding and hugging,” Hatch said. “They were saying, ‘Everything’s going to be good. This is a sign.’ And I said yes. It’s a good sign.”
For 12 years, Hatch has preached the value of basketball, no matter the score. The girls, he figured, needed structure in their lives. They needed coaches and teammates to depend on, and they needed to know that someone was depending on them.
“It ain’t about the record,” Hatch told The Times in 2012. “If I looked out and I could see in their eyes that they’re depressed about losing, and hated to come out here, it wouldn’t be worth it. But they put it behind them quicker than anybody.”
That season’s team, like this one, has nine players. His job, everyone’s job, Hatch said, was to go 9-0 with the girls, to get their lives on the right track. “If you go 8-1, you’ve had a losing season.”
Carroll Academy, now 1-2, plays again on Tuesday.
“If the ball goes in, if it doesn’t, the work still goes on,” he said late Friday night. “But this makes it a little sweeter. We can rest ‘til Tuesday knowing we’re on a winning streak.”
Published at Sat, 02 Dec 2017 02:42:50 +0000