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South girls team set an example for all of us

My heart goes out to the South Medford girls basketball team’s title run cut short by a virus. Sure, that is selecting one team out of many. I am OK with that and hopefully what I write has a broader application.

South players, your season was cut short two games from your goal. I suspect each of you have had contact with folks that say things like “I know how you feel” (no, they don’t), “Let me tell you about my loss when ” (not helpful) and other advice. These folks are for the most part well-meaning and trying to help. They also may be dealing with their own inability to process emotions.

Grieve your loss in whatever healthy way works for you.

You and your 2019/2020 season was a gift to the community and to me — an old man who graduated from Medford in the mid-1950s. That was long before girls were allowed to have athletic teams.

As a team I admire each and all of you. Your class, your work ethic, your team spirit and family-like bonding were and are an inspiration to our community. You are the deepest 1 through 12 Coach Cole team to date. I hate to spotlight any one of you for fear of others feeling snubbed. I hope you can all see yourselves in the following examples of what I mean.

To start with; three first team, three second team and one honorable mention all-conference players off one team is a stunning example of your talent, attitude and work ethic.

Kaili (Chamberlin): Your pure joy playing the game is what every ball player at every level should experience.

Toni (Coleman): Coming off your sophomore all-conference season I was so impressed on your obvious off-season work on your outside shot and improving your ability to protect the ball on your drives to the hoop.

Emma (Schmerbach): You were so much improved coming into your junior season. Your dedication to defensive pressure is inspiring.

Tanesha (Coley): Your defensive game is so improved from your freshman year.

Bella (Stone): As a transfer your overall floor game, defense and court awareness is and was clearly game-changing.

I outlined the above because for the most part they highlight skills, commitment and attitude that are often overlooked. I could also spotlight the dead-eye shooting skills of Bella (Pedrojetti) or Laini (Dahlin). Or the rebounding and end-to-end full-speed ball handling of Shakia (Teague-Perry). Or, the monster shot blocks of Sierra (Logue). Or

In the end I am deeply grateful for all 12 of you (13 including Donovyn (Hunter), who inspired others as she worked her way through knee rehab) and youngsters Lottie (Dillard), Tatum (Schmerbach) and Kendall (Fealey). I always came early so I could watch you help the JV team and then contribute to varsity success.

I love the back of your warmup jackets with the single word “Family.” I have been moved over the years to see Panther players black/white/Latina/Pacific islanders wearing the South Medford uniform and blending the “Family.” It is a model for our community, state and nation.

At your 2020 Kids Unlimited breakfast team fundraisers and other community events, I have always found each of you kind, committed and caring of your community and each other. I remember with a grin asking the sisters Emma and Tatum at the team 6:30 a.m. Saturday breakfast fundraiser if there was any other Saturday that the entire team would all be dressed, full of smiles and community spirit at that time on a Saturday. I received two laughing resounding “No’s.”

A 25-3 season is great — and yes, grieve the loss of your last two games to a virus. Please also know you have been, are currently and will always be role models for your peers, the community and this old man.

Larry Slessler lives in Medford.

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