The Lady Vikings also went undefeated this season.
The Lady Vikings of Voorhees Middle School made history recently with a back-to-back clinching of the South Jersey Middle School Basketball League championship. This was only the second time in VMS history the girls basketball team were consecutive champions. Under the leadership of coach David Thompson, this was also the girls’ third championship in four years.
On Feb. 12, the girls dominated Glen Landing Middle School with an impressive 51–25 victory to win the championship. Along with the win, throughout the season, the team went 14–1 in the overall division and 12–0 in the league.
And while the girls have acquired physical skills, they mostly attribute their success to the bonds they’ve built on and off the court.
Many of the girls have been playing with each other since fourth grade.
“It gets to the point where you grow as sisters,” co-captain and eighth grader Veyoni “Muffin” Davis said. “You just get better and learn how each other play.”
Davis, along with eighth graders Maya Edwards and Mia Robbins, rose to captain status this year, working to instill the physical and emotional strengths they’ve gained through the sport into their teammates.
One practice in particular, the “60–40,” the captains drilled into their teammates, which, they say, benefited their winnings. This entails performing 60 layups and 40 jump shots in a certain amount of time.
They say at the beginning of the season, this drill would take the players close to 11 minutes, but by the end, they could reach “60–40” in only eight minutes.
“When you get a breakaway layup or you have a wide open jump shot — that’s the shot you’re going to take,” Davis said.
The captains, along with their teammates, say as a team, they did not face any significant challenges except the St. Mary of the Lakes Tournament. Suffering from an ejection and technicals, the team tied for third place, but it did not deter the rest of their season.
Coupled with skills like the “60–40,” the eighth graders wanted the importance of emotional connections to resonate with younger players, as they’ve gained countless memories at travel team sleepovers and AAU summer programs.
“We want the sixth graders and seventh graders to be like us, so they can have that bond,” eighth grader Sanaa Thorne said. “It’s just like a big sisterhood.”
Thompson, who has been coaching VMS basketball for nine years, says even though the girls have gone undefeated, he still has seen an evolution in their practice since the start of the season.
“Skill wise, they pretty much knew what they were doing. It took them awhile to learn to play as a team,” he said. “But, by the end, they melded themselves into a real solid team. They looked out for each other. There was no selfishness.”
The girls say they’ve noticed athletic teams struggle when players are being catty with each other. For them, it’s crucial to block out any ordinary middle school drama and stay focused on the game while also humoring one another.
“When we get onto the court, we know we’re a team,” eighth grader Jane Trauge said. “We know we’re going to play as a team and put drama aside and just bring each other up, not put each other down.”
Although a majority of the team consists of eighth graders who are moving up to high school, the younger girls are not discouraged going into next season.
“I want to continue this team having a good leader and to hold the team together,” seventh grader Macey Wilkins said. “I think I’m definitely going to have to step my game up and hold my team.”
Teammates include Dascha Anderson, Aubree Pote, Alexa Lovallo, Faith Quinn , Macey Wilkins, Veyoni Davis, Mia Robbins, Carolyn Cefarrotti, Maya Davis, Sanaa Thorne, Alex Clark , Caillyn Gallagher, Amanda Chadwick, Jane Trauger, Sophia Staiger and Eva Clark.