Shawnee embraces underdog role, experience
One day before the state championship, Chrissy McGovern gave a homework assignment to her Shawnee girls' basketball team. "After practice," she said, "I told them to go home and watch Hoosiers."
One day before the state championship, Chrissy McGovern gave a homework assignment to her Shawnee girls' basketball team.
"After practice," she said, "I told them to go home and watch Hoosiers."
The classic movie features a small-town, underdog high school basketball team overcoming the odds to win a state title.
That about sums up the attitude the Renegades are taking into the Group 4 championship matchup with Franklin at 4 p.m. Sunday at Toms River North's Pine Belt Arena.
There is, however, a crucial difference between the Renegades and the team portrayed in the movie. Shawnee has been here before.
Shawnee fell in last year's final, 60-41, to Paterson Eastside.
McGovern was a first-year head coach. The players were largely young and inexperienced.
They enter Sunday as savvy, battle-tested veterans.
"When we walked into that gym last year, I think we were totally overwhelmed," McGovern said. "Last year, I think the idea of getting there was good enough for us. But we said that's not good enough this year.
"We know what to expect. The confidence level is there. We feel like if we play our game, we'll be in it."
In the road to Sunday, Shawnee (27-3), which returned four starters this year, leaned on its deep bench as much as its scrappy starting lineup, led by senior forward Nikola Williams and senior guard Jen Byrne.
The Renegades made a name for themselves for their tough, hard-nosed style. That will have to be in full force against Franklin (22-5). The Warriors are led by La Salle recruit Adreana Miller, a guard who scored 26 points in the semifinals.
"This team has worked so hard, and what they've done over the past two years is really mind-blowing," McGovern said. "They're constantly exceeding my expectations. They're mentally tough, and they just never give up."