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Junior Lady Airedales set for conference opener with Dogs 1/9/22

Junior Lady Airedales set for

conference opener with Dogs 


By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


Alma junior girls coach Angela Rushing had a pretty good idea the 2022-23 season might be special.


But to start 10-0? That’s crazy good. 


“That’s a huge accomplishment for the girls,” she said. “Since I have been coaching at Alma, I don’t remember another junior high team that has gone undefeated in non-conference play. The most important part of our season starts Monday night against Greenwood. We still have a lot to prove. We have to stay focused to accomplish the team goals that we have set for ourselves this season.”


Rushing’s roster is a mixture of middle school and high school players. 


“At the beginning of the season, in one of our team meetings, we have to come together as a family. 


“That’s exactly what they have become. It’s a sisterhood.”


Fueled by Faith Sartor’s scoring and rebounding, and Olivia Hughes’ leadership as a point guard, Alma has made it a habit of starting quickly. That’s a benefit of being a close-knit family. 


“They support each other on and off the court,” Rushing said. “I told them not to let anything or anyone break the bond they have created because if that happens things can go south real quick. 


“I have been really proud of all of them supporting and encouraging each other.”


Hughes has been good without even realizing so, Rushing said. 


“She is our ball handler and calms us down on the floor,” the coach said.


How do you stay unbeaten? There will be peaks and valleys in the newly aligned junior high conference. 


“We have a team motto that we try to live by: stay humble and hungry,” Rushing said. “We talk about Jon Gordon’s book, ‘The Hard Hat.’ I have used this book with junior high (teams) in the past three years. It talks about having a culture defined by toughness, selflessness, and hard work.”


Alma’s new conference includes some older foes, like Van Buren and Greenwood, and some newer teams, like Harrison. In past years, Alma teams wouldn’t see the Goblins until they were in high school. 


“Every team in our conference is going to be competitive,” Rushing said. “I feel like Farmington and Greenwood will probably be the top two teams that will challenge us for conference.”


Rushing has seen improvements from all players, especially the aforementioned Sartor. 


“She is more skilled in her post moves, her shot has improved, and she can handle the ball better this year,” Rushing said. “She keeps herself under control a lot more and slows herself down instead of trying to rush things.”


Breella Hughes, Izabel Benson, Emberly Kimes, and McKinzy Berna, among others, have played well. 


“Berna is always smiling and brings happiness to the team,” Rushing said. “She keeps the bench loud, and when she goes in, there is absolutely no doubt that she is going to play hard. Benson leads by example and is our vocal leader whether she is on the floor or not.”


Kimes has been a spark, too. 


“Emberly is such a spark for this team no matter what position she is playing,” Rushing said. “She is starting to find her way and becoming aggressive offensively.


“Breella is constantly making plays on defense to turn into offense. She’s a leader on and off the court who is going to go out and lead by example.”



Record: 5-5

Coach: Eddie Corder (33rd year) 


Veteran Alma junior high boys coach Eddie Corder didn’t have to do a whole lot in 2021-22 - just as long as the team made it to the game on time. 


This year has been different. And a lot of fun. 


The Airedales ended non-conference play on Thursday with a wire-to-wire 52-41 win over Bentonville West. 


Alma (5-5) faces longtime foe Greenwood in the newly revamped conference that will include (and require) longer road trips to places like Harrison. 


This team may not have Camden Curd and Israel Towns-Robinson. And that’s fine with Corder. 


“Last year we had a lot of easy games because we were so talented,” Corder said. “We had a lot of stuff going on the first of the year that we struggled with. But this team has really grown on us. 


“One thing we don’t have to worry about is their effort - they’re always going to play hard.”


Athletic Sam Schlegel is the team’s leading scorer. His cousin, Jeremiah, Easton Daily, and Braden Kimes have had their moments, too.


The same rings true for backups Brayden Peppas and Owen McCoy. 


“The biggest thing is we have kids that come off the bench that may not play but five or six minutes, but they make huge plays,” Corder said. “We try to tell them, ‘You may not play but five or six minutes, but those plays in a big game can make the difference in us winning and losing.’ 


“We highlighted their play from the Bentonville West game.”