Sometimes people look solely at the colors of wins and losses. Of course, that is the picture that is seen at the end of each season. But if you want the real picture, you have to look at the consistency of those W’s and L’s over a period of years. It takes time for the art of a program to become great. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Sistine Chapel wasn’t painted overnight. The 2023 Mansfield Lady Tigers basketball team did not win the State Championship gold, but boy did they ever add some other serious colors to the basketball gallery.
In 2023, the Mansfield Lady Tigers brushed in a Bill Frye Invitational Championship, Booneville Classic Runner-Up, Co-Conference Championship, District Championship, Regional Runner-Up, and a State Final Four appearance onto their canvas en route to a 29-5 overall record. Mansfield was able to do it all on the court as the team played as one smooth unit in victory and in loss. From high-scoring games to nail-biters, you could tell that the Lady Tigers would bow down to no one. The Lady Tigers games against 2A-4 newcomers, Hector, were definitely must see basketball as the programs split regular season games and championships alike. If the Lady Tigers were looking for a rival in 2023, they definitely found it in the Lady Wildcats. Although they were not victorious in their State Championship goal, Mansfield’s final loss came to the eventual 2A State Champions themselves, Mount Vernon-Enola.
With all of that being looked at in retrospect, Mansfield did not have a season to thumb your nose at, especially when you consider that the team consisted of only four seniors. Seniors Skylynn Harris, Natalie Allison, Brooklyn Adams, and Seven Sanderson led the way to Mansfield’s immaculate masterpiece in 2023, but that’s nothing new to them. In their three-year senior high careers, the Lady Tigers “Fantastic Four” has accumulated one Conference Championship, two Conference Co-Championships, two District Championships, one District Runner-Up, one Regional Championship, one Regional Runner-Up, and three straight State Tournament bids. As end-of-season personal awards flowed in, Natalie Allison ended up with an All-State Tournament and All-Conference while Seven Sanderson earned All-Conference. Although they were not awarded individual accolades, Skylynn Harris and Brooklyn Adams on court presence could not be ignored. Adams face to face defense was spot on while Harris’s rebounds and three-pointers closed out many games for the Lady Tigers in 2023.
The Lady Tigers will lose their “Fantastic Four” to graduation therefore the Mansfield art gallery must be complete, right? Not by a long shot. The Lady Tigers haven’t gone to three straight State Tournaments by rebuilding. No, they merely reload. Mansfield will look to return their “Junior Juggernauts” who, like their senior counterparts, know a thing or two about winning. 2023 Lady Tiger starters Kynslee Ward (All-State & All-Conference), Alyson Edwards (All-Conference), and Harlie Fuller (All-Conference) are assured to keep the momentum of the program going. The trio by themselves proved their worth in 2023 as they drew the undivided focus of every team the Lady Tigers faced. They will not be alone in the 2023-24 season through. Junior, Raine Hecox, along with sophomores Trinity Triska and Meghan Emery showed opponents what serious defense looks like when closing out games this year and will provide vital roles in next season’s games. Mansfield might lose some size with the loss of Allison, Sanderson, and Harris but they will still have a powerful backboard game with sophomore Kaylie Lowery and all-star freshman Kaylee Ward (All-State).
“The 2023 season has definitely been one to remember,” said Head coach Ethan Bowman. “Ending with a 29-5 record, the Bill Frye Invitational Championship, Co-Conference Champions, District Champions, Regional Runner-Ups, and making it all the way to the State Final Four before losing to the eventual State Champion (Mount Vernon-Enola) makes me very proud of all of these girls. They continued to work hard throughout the long season which allowed us to take another big step forward in the development of our program. We had an exceptional group of seniors that will be dearly missed next season. We have high expectations for our program and to continue to play at a high level and continue to move forward to get better. We’ll work extremely hard during the off-season and pre-season as we transition toward the 2023-24 season. I’d like to thank everyone in the Mansfield School district and community for the overwhelming support they showed our girls this past season. Myself and the team as a whole noticed it and it was greatly appreciated”.
The key to this year’s success and any future successes of the Lady Tigers basketball program is cohesiveness. The Lady Tigers even advertised their cohesiveness this year with their warm-up shirts stating “We, Not Me”. Nearly every player on the 2023 squad played together from grade school to now. You’d need a calculator to add up all of the championships this group has earned each and every year since picking up a basketball. That alone makes the 2023 Lady Tigers one of the most overall successful teams in Mansfield Lady Tiger basketball history. Although the 2023 season ended with a loss, there are many many more wins ahead of the Lady Tigers and the overall goal will remain the same. Paint the state RED, be the best there is, and bring home a 2A State Championship.