The Sonoraville Lady Phoenix’s run to a state title came to a bitter end this past March. However, the season was filled with highs, from a capturing the region championship to a Class 3A final four appearance.
“The whole season was a lot of fun,” Lady Phoenix head coach Stephanie Caudell said. “We had to overcome a lot of adversity and obstacles. We had quite a few injuries we had to deal with throughout the season. (I) played a lot of sophomores … so they had to grow and I think we grew as a team and we were playing our best at the end of the season.”
Caudell noted Sonoraville’s young talent coming back next year. However, with a region title to defend, she said the Lady Phoenix have their work cut out for them.
“We’ve got a lot of talent coming back, and that always gives you confidence when you’ve got returning players that have got that experience and they’ve been in pressure situations and they’ve played entire varsity seasons,” Caudell said. “We’ve got a tough region, so we’re going to have to be ready and even better because I think, when you do have success, everybody kind of guns for you.”
Sonoraville’s journey to the final four is the furtherest the school has traveled in the girls’ basketball state tournament. To qualify for the playoffs is no easy task, but Caudell said she has confidence in the returning group of girls.
“It takes a lot of commitment, a lot of time and a lot of hard work,” Caudell said. “I think the girls have to get better as individuals. They have to put the time in outside of the season … and when we get into season, we’ve got to make sure that we’re ready.”
During the run, Caudell said the crowd fervor and enthusiasm was a big factor in propelling the team, especially during the home playoff games Sonoraville High School hosted.
“This team really played well at home,” Caudell said. “We got a lot of good fan support, crowd support, community support and … that was almost overwhelming.”
Since summer break started, Caudell said the team has taken part in games at different colleges across the region. Most recently, the Lady Phoenix travelled to the University of North Georgia and Lee University, the latter of which is in Cleveland, Tennessee.
“We went to the University of North Georgia … for three days and got to grow as a team because you stay overnight, you eat together, you stay in the dorm together,” Caudell said. “That’s a team-building thing which I think is good in the summer and plus we played some really good competition. I think every team we played there was tough.”
Caudell said the biggest point of emphasis this summer is playing an aggressive style of basketball and giving underclassmen opportunities to contribute on the court.
“I think we can get better all the way around,” Caudell said. “The good thing about this group is that I’ve got a lot of them that play basketball a lot, even away from school. They play on … travel teams and they do a lot of individual work. Some of my older girls have really improved I think individually coming into the summer.”
Coach Caudell has been with Sonoraville High School for the past 13 years and also serves as the school’s counselor.
“The most important thing as far as building a program is the relationships that we have with the players and they have with one another,” Caudell said. “There has to be trust there all the way around.”