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Turn Back the Clock - 20 years later, memories still vivid for champion Raiders
by Damian Tromerhauser
Feb 22, 2012 | 2227 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune illustration by John Byrne - Former Reed players (left to right) Stacey Petersen-O’Connell, Christine Flora-Eckles, Misty Hale-Ferguson and Kalani Lizares took some time Wednesday afternoon to reminisce with coach Dick Allen (middle) about the Raiders’ 88-game winning streak and 20-year anniversary of winning back-to-back state basketball championships.
Tribune illustration by John Byrne - Former Reed players (left to right) Stacey Petersen-O’Connell, Christine Flora-Eckles, Misty Hale-Ferguson and Kalani Lizares took some time Wednesday afternoon to reminisce with coach Dick Allen (middle) about the Raiders’ 88-game winning streak and 20-year anniversary of winning back-to-back state basketball championships.
Winning a single game in any sport is often no easy task. Stringing together back-to-back games is even harder. Now imagine taking that task and multiplying it by 27, to 54 games in a row. That is what the Reed girls basketball team accomplished 20 years ago during the 1991-1992 season, winning the program’s second consecutive regional and state titles.

The following season the girls program would yet again go unscathed in the loss column, completing a three-peat of crowns and capping off an 88-game streak spanning from November 30, 1990 to December 3, 1993 in which the Lady Raiders never experienced the agony of defeat, a state record that still stands for girls basketball.

On March 7, 1992, on the floor of Lawlor Events Center, the Raiders left no question about their reign or the dynasty that they were building, taking the title in dominating fashion with a 73-51 victory over the Las Vegas Wildcats. The state medals that the team received that night symbolized more than just another championship.

“It meant the world and still does,” Dick Allen, Reed head coach at the time, said. “The girls used to say ‘Coach, they’re not going to remember the scores, they may not remember the streak, but no matter what happens, when we walk in the gym we can point up to those banners and our state medals.’ They can never take those away. Those teams and those times are very special.”

The feelings described by Allen still resonates with his former players. Christine Eckles, then Christine Flora, was a senior guard for the Raiders.

“It was an honor,” Eckles said. “I remember jumping around on the floor and being so happy. To get through that journey of the season to then get to that point where you’re ecstatic on the floor and exhausted because you played your heart out and know that you were victorious. Those are just awesome things that I take with me.

“It was something that people recognized you for. To win 54 games in a row and two regional and state titles was amazing. It was something that hadn’t been done before at our school. You were a champion and it represented perfection and a lot of hard work. It meant that we didn’t have a night where we slipped up and screwed up, or had an off night. We brought our best game every single night. That was something special about that team. There wasn’t real superstars. It was somebody different every night. We were always more concerned with the outcome of the game than individual goals. It was a special group of young ladies.”

Eckles was an all-league, all-state and all-tournament team selection as a senior. Stacey Petersen-O’Connell, Michelle Palaroan and Janel Chandler-Wells were also named to the all-tournament team as Reed rolled to three straight tourney wins.

It was team cohesiveness that separated the Blue and Gold from its competition. While other teams had one player leading the way, the Raiders, who also beat Las Vegas to win the school’s first girls state title a year earlier, went into games as a single unit instead of a group of players.

“I remember how well we played together and how disciplined we were on defense,” Kelly Stevens said, a junior guard on the ’92 team. “We were coached extremely well. We played very unselfishly as a team. Having a standout athlete on our team isn’t what made us great. We were great because we fundamentally were the best team. We were coached well. I think whether it was then or now, if you’re coached well and you play fundamentally, and it’s consistent like that every game, you’re going to win. Not that we weren’t great athletes, but that wasn’t what it was about.”

While the girls were friends, it was not their time hanging out that brought them so close together. Instead, it was coach Allen.

  “We had a lot of adversity because we had a wonderful coach but he was very hard on us. So as a group we banded together almost in a way to prove him wrong,” said Stacey O’Connell (then Stacey Petersen). “I personally love Mr. Allen. He’s still an inspiration to me to this day. His coaching style was intended to get the most out of every person. So his way of coaching was to get in our face. For me, that worked and I think it did for the whole group and we came together because of that. Those were my friends on and off the court. There wasn’t a lot of animosity between the girls. We really, truly cared for each other.”

Echoed by all of the other members of that team, it was Allen’s coaching style that pushed the girls the extra mile to accomplish the historic achievements that they did.

“I think it started with the coaches,” said Misty Hale-Ferguson, a guard for Reed. “They basically said since the year we started that if we were going to be out there, we were going to give 110 percent and if you do that, you’re going to see results. Every person on that team supported every other person. I just remember the hard work we put in. We practiced a lot and so hard. We weren’t allowed to give anything less than everything we had.”

Once the ball had been tipped, the team took on the image of its coach on the court.

“I believe that you can push yourself to a certain point but I believe that coaches make you better than you think you could ever be, and Mr. Allen had a way of doing that,” Eckles said. “He pushed us beyond what we thought we could do. I still believe that we were the hardest working defensive team that I’ve ever seen. We moved together as one unit on defense all the time. We didn’t even have to talk. We’d switch screens and not switch screens and just know what the other person was doing. It was just great teamwork and great leadership from Mr. Allen.

“He never expected anything but perfection so he would make you do it until you did it at the intensity level and the way that he wanted, and then he’d make you do it over and over again. He didn’t give you room to believe that he would settle for anything but your very best. We just played at a very high level every night. The defensive intensity that we brought I haven’t seen matched. It was just hard work for 32 minutes and you didn’t get a break. He was just very consistent in the message that he sent us and we were a lot like him.”

Instilling in his team a roughness that mirrored his own, Allen toughened the girls through preaching the importance of and demanding defense.

“College practices weren’t as tough as ours,” he said. “I coached them just like I coached the guys. I was demanding, I was tough, but they responded. They just didn’t want to lose. There was no quit. They just would not take ‘no’ for an answer. I think the thing that I remember most is their toughness, their tenacity, and their heart. Over the streak, we weren’t always the best team, but I’ll tell you one thing, we played harder than anybody. We played full-court man, we pressed everywhere, and we got after it. They put in the time and they put in the effort.

“I think with any successful team you have to play hard. You have to play smart, and you have to play together. When they were on the court, they played as one and that’s what made them successful.  We were team oriented. Nobody really cared who got the glory. We had some people who’d score, but we also had defensive stoppers and that was our main thing. We pressed and we got after people. People didn’t like to play us. We were full court, man-to-man, and in your face. We wore teams down. They were a pleasure to coach, they really were.”

Allen’s lessons and influence still impacts his player’s lives to this day.

“I definitely appreciate the things that Mr. Allen did for us,” said Eckles, who has gone on to coach at all three local high schools and is currently the varsity girls coach at Spanish Springs. “The mental toughness, work ethic, determination and never-quit attitude that he instilled in us are things that have taken me through every aspect of my life. I believe every time I go into an interview for something, I have an edge because of the things that I went through as an athlete. That taught me a lot of character and a winning attitude. I’m just so grateful.

“There were times when our team didn’t like things that he told us but as an adult and in a professional world, I see the things that he did that made us stronger women, made us stronger people. I think all the girls from that team could say that they can handle adversity with a sense of clarity because he created that mental toughness in us every day with how he made us practice.”

Now 20 years later, the Reed girls basketball team is returning to state on the very same floor that the three-time state champions made history on. This year’s Lady Raiders will try to grab the school’s first title since those glory days but the question of whether or not the teams of yester-year would be able to contend like they did at the start of the 90s is not a debate for the old team.

“I definitely think we could compete,” Kalani Lizares, a junior post at the time, said. “The talent these days is very good but I think the reason why our team was so good back then was we didn’t have just one superstar on our team like a lot of teams do now. We had five people on the floor at all times, who were working just as hard as the other person. I don’t see a lot of that these days. Our team chemistry was like no other. To have all five players on the floor almost scoring in double figures every single game and the defense that we played on top of it. We were defensive stoppers and we played everybody man. We didn’t play a zone. We pressed full-court man the whole game. It would be fun if we could go back in time and have us compete against teams now. I think we’d still be contenders.”

Lizares has since coached in the high school and junior college ranks. Her old ball coach has similar sentiments about how the 1991 and 1992 teams would stack up with today’s top programs.

“Oh, I most definitely do feel we could compete,” Allen said. “We never had an individual star but collectively as a team we were up there. That’s why our defense and playing together was so important for us. There are some excellent teams and there have been some great teams, but I don’t know that anyone played defense like us.”

Regardless if the Raiders of the past would be able to pull off the same feats, no one will ever be able to take away their banners and medals.
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