By Bill Tamburrino
The 2011-12 Lady Bulldog basketball team was a pleasure to cover and watch. The Lady Bulldogs personified what is good in high school sports.
They played hard and they played as a team. They were unselfish. They handled adversity and they had fun.
One could see that they enjoyed the game and enjoyed playing with their teammates.
Originally this column was supposed to be about the new kid on the block, senior transfer Tiana Zuniga.
Tiana transferred to RHS from Aztec, N.M. after playing three years on the Aztec High School varsity team. Moving to a new school for one’s senior year and season is a tough move.
“My main concern was that I didn’t have any friends,” she said. “That changed when I decided to attend Coach Reichner’s basketball camp. I met Paige Conroy on my way to the gym. We became instant friends. She introduced me to the rest of the team and Coach O’Connor. I felt at home right away. It was not that way in New Mexico. The team attitude here is like family and they treated me like a member right away.”
When the four other seniors—Megan Buckley, Kim Whelehon, RaeAnne VanTol and Conroy— were asked separately how long it took them to accept Tiana as a teammate, they all responded with the same response. “Instantly.” Megan added, “This team is a family.” RaeAnne added, “Right away, but we all came closer at the Coronado Tournament.”
The five seniors also responded identically when asked what the best aspect of playing basketball at RHS was. Every one mentioned having great teammates, great coaches, and great support from their parents and the fans at RHS. Every young lady stated that she had great parental support on and off the court.
Tiana: “My parents (Polly and Gary) have supported me and been my biggest fans.”
Kim: “My parents (Dan and Pam) have always supported me with everything.”
Paige: “My parents (Jim and Kelly) have never missed a game since third grade.”
RaeAnne: “My parents (Judy and Tom) have encouraged and supported me through the years.”
Megan: “My parents (Kevin and Shirley) have been my biggest support group in everything.”
All of the parents support the entire team in a positive manner at every game.
The girls also had kudos for their coaches.
Megan: “Coach Marshall built me up to be the player that I am and Coach O’Connor pushed me to be my best.”
Tiana: “I would like to thank all three of the coaches for their time, patience and support.”
Kim: “My coaches have been the best. Marshall has always pushed me because he knows my potential. Coach Kylee Harris helped me with my 3-point shots. Coach O’Connor and Coach Spooner are very approachable and always helped me on and off of the court. They are all great and nice.”
Paige: “Coach Marshall was the greatest coach I have ever had and he taught me all of the most important things about the game. When he retired I never thought basketball would be the same, but Coach O’Connor has become just as great as him.”
RaeAnne: “Coach O’Connor pushed me to become the best player that I could be. I couldn’t ask for a better coach. Coach Spooner is awesome. Coach Harris is a great coach. I had so much fun playing on her team. Coach Marshall is an amazing coach. He is a great supporter and mentor. Coach Scheib relates everything to math and helped me with my post play.”
They also mentioned some of the coaches’ unique qualities.
“With Scheib, everything is related to math.”
“Coach O’Connor laughs about anything.”
“Coach Spooner only laughs at things that are actually funny. And she thinks we are the funniest people she has ever met.”
“Coach Scheib is a goofball that knows how to lighten the mood. He is the funniest coach ever.”
Megan, Kim, RaeAnne and Paige have all been on the RHS varsity for three seasons. Tiana joined them this season. They plan on keeping in touch via the social media and visits home from college.
All five are going on to college. Kim will be busy playing softball at Southern Arkansas University. RaeAnne, Tiana, Paige and Megan would like to play intramurals or rec ball.
Kim, Megan, Paige, RaeAnne and Tiana are graduating seniors, but they will be teammates for life. They have worked hard, played hard, overcame adversity, and enjoyed playing basketball at RHS.
They played the game the way it is supposed to be played. The credit for that has to go to their coaches, past and present. They are all ladies and have shown others that female athletes can compete and be ladies.