Anytime an unknown number pops up on Tim Page’s phone, he already knows what the question is going to be. Midstate coaches have been dialing up the Lady Bronco coach for the past two months in hopes of scheduling games against the Boyd girls. He already knows his answer before they ask too – it’s always yes.
The Lady Broncos, coming off a school-record 36 wins last season, have beefed up their schedule this year in hopes of growing the program to new heights. It hasn’t been without its challenges early, but Page believes the uptick in competition early will pay dividends later.
“We had a tremendous amount of success last year, but we weren’t able to win our last game and that’s what every team wants to do,” said Page, noting his team’s losses in the finals of both the TSIAA and NACA tournaments. “With the schedule we’ve added this year, we could finish with a worse record but be a better team by February. To win championships, you have to beat really good teams and we’re trying to test ourselves more this year.”
That means playing anybody, anywhere and at any time, even if it means packing up and going on just 24 hours of notice. Boyd did just that last Tuesday when it went to face Rhea County, a soon-to-be 4A program by TSSAA standards.
The Lady Broncos nearly spoiled the Lady Eagles’ debut in a Hall of Champions matchup, but ultimately fell 47-46 in the final minute. Boyd led by as many as seven in the fourth quarter, but Rhea County’s putback late and a missed 3-pointer by the Lady Broncos before the buzzer allowed the home team to escape.
“It may have been the best game we’ve played as a group in two years. We had chances to win,” said Page. “We don’t want to settle for moral victories, even as a high school of less than 100 kids going up against a 4A program with 1,500 students. We just want to win and we fell just short against them.”
Three days later, the Lady Broncos were suiting up in front of a raucous student body at Grundy County. Boyd was invited to compete in a day game, tradtionally a showcase of success for the home team in front of a packed crowd. Once again, the Lady Broncos fell just shy of spoiling a big moment for a TSSAA school.
Grundy County pulled away in the final quarter to win 54-45, capitalizing on a slow shooting day for the Lady Broncos (29.2 percent from the field, 14 missed free throws).
The matchups last week were the first of at least six games Boyd, which competes in the TSIAA against schools its size, will play against TSSAA teams this year. The squad is likely to run into more TSSAA opponents in holiday tournaments, including in a Tuesday tournament game in Pigeon Forge (which wasn’t completed at press time). Last season, the Lady Broncos won six games against TSSAA foes.
As more and more opponents square off with the Lady Broncos, Page knows his team will get attention – and respect – from TSSAA teams. Even more, their top players will continue to get chances to extend their careers at the college level.
Last year’s star senior Lia Wright is now playing for Roane State, while Page noted that Anna Jones – a 1,000-point scorer for Boyd – had two college offers that she turned down to focus on academics at the next level. There’s a good chance the Lady Broncos could produce more college players in the near future.
Senior Audrey Durham has upped her game this year. She had 15 points, six rebounds and three steals against Grundy County and added 14 points and four boards against the Lady Eagles. For the season, Durham is averaging 11 points on 50 percent shooting while grabbing 6.3 boards and four steals.
Sharpshooter Laney Copeland could also turn heads. The junior can hit from anywhere on the court and is knocking down 40.5 percent of her 3-pointers while scoring 16.5 points per game. Copeland fueled Boyd’s lone win to date with a 24-point outing against the Bradley Knights on Nov. 11.
Page is hopeful Wright’s signing was the first of many more in future years.
“Lia made it to the next level while playing here and I think it helped put us on the map again. We had a good run of kids and teams in the middle of the last decade and now we’re getting back to that level. I think the excitement is showing locally too because we have a pretty big freshman class of great girls,” said Page. “There’s always more work to be done. We want every girl who comes into the program to keep adding more and more and taking it to another level. We’re starting to build something here.”
There’s no real way of knowing exactly when the building will be complete, but one subtle sign could be when Page’s phone stops ringing. If the Lady Broncos start banking wins against TSSAA foes yearly, teams may stop calling and signing up for losses.