The SMCA Lady Mustangs basketball team has had an outstanding season, claiming two championships in 2023. The team won the Metro Independent School League (MISAL) championship for the first time in 19 years and the Maryland Christian State Tournament (MCST) championship for the first time in school history.

The team’s path to glory was not an easy one. The Lady Mustangs struggled early in the season, with a record of 2-5 after the first seven games. However, they learned valuable lessons from each loss and win, such as valuing each possession, persistence, communication, and trust.

The month of January was the most intense part of the season for the Lady Mustangs, as they played five conference games, back-to-back games, and intense scrimmages against some of the region’s most elite programs. The team developed a calendar of full practice, game prep, skill development, and rest days to help them remain focused. They also enhanced their opponent scouting reports with short video breakdowns of each team’s offense, defense, strengths, and weaknesses.

The team’s determination, dedication, focus, and application of lessons learned all season helped them make it through the championship month, which included some of the tensest moments of the season. The Lady Mustangs encountered obstacles similar to those they had seen during the early part of the season, but they could apply lessons learned to overcome those obstacles.

On February 18, 2023, the Lady Mustangs played in the MISAL championship game for the first time in 19 years. They faced off against Takoma Academy, the powerhouse of the conference and the underdogs. The Lady Mustangs learned a lot from their first two games with Takoma and had two days to prepare. They set up a screen and projector in the gym and went back and forth, from watching films to practicing strategy on the floor. On the day of the game held, a pregame shoot around, and there was a sense of calmness, confidence, determination, and focus in the air. The Lady Mustangs won the game, securing their first MISAL championship in 19 years.

After defeating MACA, the Lady Mustangs advanced to the MCST championship game. They faced Grace Academy, a team with many competent players. The Lady Mustangs started slow, and Grace started fast, jumping out to an 18-2 lead. However, the Lady Mustangs did not panic and continued believing they could win. They switched their game plan and focused on one defensive stop, one rebound, and one score at a time. By halftime, they cut the lead to 10. They had a strong third quarter and cut the lead to 8, and finally, with under two minutes to go, they took a 39-38 lead. They applied everything they learned to take that lead and overcame one final obstacle. With their fans chanting behind them, they dominated the rest of the game on their way to a 45–41 win over Grace Academy to win SMCA’s first women’s MCST championship.

The team had to climb a mountain to reach their goal of becoming the 2023 Metro Independent School League (MISAL) champions for the first time in 19 years and the 2023 Maryland Christian State Tournament (MCST) champions for the first time in school history. The amount of energy they exerted, and the feeling of victory was so great that physically, their bodies crashed, but mentally and emotionally, they were jubilant.

The Lady Mustangs basketball team showed the level of determination, persistence, focus, and character that is beyond words of explanation. They were not a team of so-called “elite” basketball players, but they won through the execution of defense, preparation, heart, leadership, and not talent alone. The lessons they learned will accompany them for the remainder of their lives as they continue to climb mountains.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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