Road wins give Hickman girls basketball confidence

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 | 11:17 p.m. CST; updated 1:58 p.m. CST, Wednesday, January 25, 2012

COLUMBIA — Despite playing 17 of its games away from Columbia, the Hickman girls basketball team is 16-3 this season.

Kewpies coach Tonya Mirts attributes the success to the experience and leadership of the seniors, something the team will continue to rely on entering Wednesday's game at rival Rock Bridge.

Center Kimberly Lake, guard Paige Nelson and forward Andrea Drake spend six days a week practicing, traveling and competing together, giving the group a high comfort level. Years of throwing the same pass and setting up for the same shot have helped the seniors communicate seamlessly.

They have shown a unique understanding of each other’s strengths, and each senior has plenty to offer.

At 6 feet 1 inch tall, Lake takes advantage of her physical prowess.

“As a freshman, she was kind of a gangly and lean young lady," Mirts said. "Now she's become a kid people are going to pay attention to. She's a presence in the post."

She also has an unyielding mental strength.

“She's a fierce competitor," Mirts said. "This year, she told me a broken nose wasn't a reason not to play.”

Drake is another determined senior. According to Mirts, whether Drake is asked to guard a player a head taller than her or to play an unfamiliar position, she steps up without hesitation. 

Although injured with a torn ACL, Nelson contributes in other ways.

"Paige has a bright basketball I.Q. She is constantly communicating, which is something that holds the team together," Mirts said.

Lake, Nelson and Drake say they hope to keep their momentum going at Rock Bridge. Hickman's last victory over the Bruins was in 2008.

"If we played every team like we play Rock Bridge, we'd be a force to be reckoned with," Lake said as she described the intensity of the rivalry. "It's the hardest people work."

The Kewpies' seniors say the reality is that records are unimportant.

"One team could have the best record and the other team could have the worst record, but it's still going to be a good game," Drake said as the girls laughed and knocked on the polished wood of the Hickman basketball court. 

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