Kendrick High girls basketball coach Sterling Hicks led his Lady Cherokees to a state championship win over Wesleyan on March 7 behind impressive championship performances from seniors Kahlia Lawrence and Deja Cheatham.
The state title was Kendrick's first since 2008 and placed Hicks in an elite club of Bi-City coaches of any sport who have won multiple state titles. Hicks has compiled a remarkable record of 347-51 since taking over the Kendrick program.
Hicks spoke with the Ledger-Enquirer's David Mitchell on Monday about the game, the season and his legacy as a high school basketball coach.
Let's go back to the game first. To beat a team such as Wesleyan, we talked a little about it the other day, but now that you've had a couple days to look at it, what does it mean to beat a powerhouse program like that?
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I don't consider us a slouch. I felt like if any team could go in there and do that, we could be one of those teams. We're a good team, we're consistent year in and year out, so I never talked to my kids about Wesleyan at all. Each year is a different group. It's just the tradition. They have that tradition going. Same thing for us. It's six years since our last state championship, and these kids still go hard, still put the work in.
Did you guys know you were only the second public school to beat Wesleyan in the playoffs, ever?
I didn't. I never knew that. At the end of the year, I just knew Wesleyan. It was our first time ever playing them, but I knew Wesleyan won the state championship in Class A or AA. Before this year we were always AAA or AAAA, so we never had the opportunity to play them. But I knew they were a good program.
For your girls to finally get to that peak, what was that atmosphere like afterwards? Especially for some of those seniors playing in their last game?
I think they were more relieved. We played in a lot of tournaments, it was just difficult to win at the end. For whatever rea
son, we hadn't played our best in the last game. For them to finally do that, it was a big accomplishment. They were elated about it. I knew they could do it.
With history in your mind, do you ever entertain the thought that it may not be meant to be?
Every time I play, I expect to win. When you lose, you deal with it, but I never go in thinking we might lose. The biggest thing is to leave the distractions out, the naysayers. Some people will say you can't win. I don't understand that. People, who have never seen Wesleyan play -- 'man, you can't beat Wesleyan.' Why not? For me every game is different. I look back at GAC, and that night -- I always say you've got to have some luck -- that was the luck we needed to get to this point.
You've got some seniors leaving. I want to ask about one, Kahlia Lawrence. What did she mean to your program?
I knew she would come to practice day in and day out and go hard every day. I'll miss that from her. She's not going to miss practice. I've never seen her take a day off. I'll tell you a story. They were having a senior night for volleyball, and it was our first week of practice and all the other seniors got ready to go to the football game. Lawrence, I had to force her to go. She said, 'No, I'm not going. I'm going to stay and practice.' We sat there and we talked, I gave her a hug and said that I knew where her heart it, but that she had to go. I'll miss that about her, her dedication.
There aren't a lot of coaches in any sport in the Bi-City that can say they've won multiple state titles. What does that mean to you?
None in basketball. Not many anywhere else. My man, Bobby Howard. I don't know if I'll ever catch him. He's a good guy to look up to.
What does it mean to you to be in that group?
It feels good. When you work hard, you want to know that your work is paying off. It's not necessarily about getting the championship. You want to win, but I want to get my kids in school first and foremost. I've got six seniors this year and all six will go to college somewhere. Being in an environment where that's not supposed to be the case, I like to prove people wrong. A lot of naysayers will say they can't go here or there, but if you're going to college and not having to pay for it, not getting in debt. That's a good situation. I think I'm doing my job.