Southern Wayne’s 56-9 victory against Smithfield-Selma on Thursday evening was more than just a win.
The victory marked the completion of a historic achievement. Because with that win, the Saints finished the regular season with a perfect 22-0 record.
It’s the first time in over a decade the Saints have won 20 games in a season, won a conference title and finished the regular season undefeated.
“It’s a blessing,” Southern Wayne head coach Ricky Lofton said about the Saints’ historic accomplishments.
Heading into the season, Lofton knew he had the makings of a good team, but never in his wildest dreams did he imagine an undefeated season.
“At the beginning of the season, I had no idea, but I saw the girls got better and better every game we played,” Lofton said. “They got better, they started listening, and they started believing in themselves, and I think that was the biggest thing.
“They were just so hungry this season.”
The path toward an undefeated regular season started in summer.
Lofton said he had more girls than ever want to play basketball. After playing only 12 games last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Saints were more than ready for an entire season back on the court.
“When they came back out this year, they were really ready,” Lofton said. “So, we did not really do a lot of teaching. We did that in the summer, so when it was time to play, they were ready,” Lofton said.
During Christmas break at the FCA Winter Classic, the Saints wanted to put themselves on the map. They won the tournament by a combined score of 141-79, but their win against Wayne Country Day in the semifinals let people know Southern Wayne has the makings of a great team.
“When we beat Wayne Country Day, it was like a rival because everybody was talking about who was the best in the county. When we beat them, the girls started believing in everything,” Lofton. “They were hyped for that game.”
The Saints have been a dominant force on the court this season. They have outscored their opponents 1,101-631 and won nine games by at least 20 points.
Every player on the team has contributed to the Saints’ success in some fashion. There is no selfishness as every player does what it takes because for the Saints getting the win is all that matters.
“Out of the whole senior group, Jamaya Leach is the only girl that starts, but I have key girls that come of the bench,” Lofton said. “I tell them there might be a day when a girl is in foul trouble, and you might have to step in, and when they step in, they do a good job.”
Now with playoffs starting on Tuesday, another season begins for the Saints. However, Southern Wayne’s one game at a time mentality has fueled them to a historic regular season, and it can fuel them to a historic postseason.
“It’s 0-0 now because if you lose, that’s it,” Lofton said. “They did everything we asked them to do, but now it’s like March Madness, you’ve got to be ready because if you ain’t ready, you’re going home.”