Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 29, 2014

These Golden Hawks learned how to soar

By Travis J. Brown | Feb 27, 2013
Travis J. Brown

Four years ago, Mid-Prairie put eight freshmen on the floor in a non-conference girls’ basketball game against a powerful Washington squad. The result wasn’t pretty.

The Golden Hawks were blown out 69-15 by the ninth-ranked Demons in that game on Dec. 1, 2009. Erin Cayton, the only senior on that Mid-Prairie squad, went 7-for-9 from the field and scored all 15 of the team’s points. The rest of the team, including those freshmen, went 0-for-16 from the field.

“After that game we knew we had a long experience ahead of us, but we couldn’t let that one game affect the rest of that season and the next season and the year after that,” said Mallory McArtor, who was one of those eight freshmen who played against Washington.

The Golden Hawks did have a long road ahead of them. But they took their bumps and bruises, learned from them, and knew that if they worked hard they would eventually beat the Washingtons of the world. And that group of young Golden Hawks, now all grown up, finished their careers at the state basketball tournament in Des Moines on Tuesday.

“Our freshman year was a rough season, but we just kept telling ourselves in four years this will be us crushing teams like that and taking people down,” said Erika Murphy, who was on the floor for that loss to the Demons in 2009. “Looking back, we have just come leaps and bounds from where we were four years ago.”

The Golden Hawks took their lumps that freshman year, finishing 5-16. But even back then head coach Marc Pennington saw the potential in his group of freshman.

“I feel our program is on the verge of some very exciting times,” Pennington said at the conclusion of the season. “Both the JV and varsity teams made such great strides that make the next few years very exciting to think about. I am very excited for the future of Golden Hawk basketball.”

Mid-Prairie still struggled the next season, going 7-15. But they continued to improve. And since those two seasons, the Golden Hawks have harvested what they sowed.

“I think they learned where they could be in two years,” Pennington said after the 2009 game against Washington when asked what his squad learned from the blowout loss. “This was Washington four years ago. They had a lot of freshmen playing for them. I think they realized how physical the game is at the varsity level.”

As juniors, this Golden Hawk group rattled off 13 straight wins during one stretch. The final win in that streak was a 69-29 win over Tipton that assured Mid-Prairie a share of the Cedar Valley Conference championship, the school’s first conference title since 2002.

The next night, Mid-Prairie saw its winning streak snapped at No. 15 Washington. The Golden Hawks won a postseason game that season, defeating West Branch 33-31, but bowed out in the regional quarterfinals with a 17-6 record.

This group of seniors, now nine in number, really flourished this season. In their second game of the season, the Golden Hawks finally defeated Washington for the first time in their careers, winning 30-22 inside Tim Grady Gymnasium. Mid-Prairie knocked off an undefeated Mediapolis team 40-31 in early January, and then made a run in the postseason, reaching the state tournament for the first time since 2004. It’s hard to believe this was the same team that lost 69-15 on the early December evening in 2009.

“I think we’ve come a long way just from being little freshmen,” McArtor said on Tuesday following her team’s 51-30 loss to second-ranked MOC-Floyd Valley. “Now we’re seniors and we’re at the big stage. It was a fun run.”

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