NAPOLEONVILLE, LA (WAFB) - Gaylin Pearly has coached the girls basketball team at Napoleonville Middle for the past 11 years. Last night, however, her team achieved a success that exceeded her expectations.
"I've always had talent, but they needed the team work to have the heart," she said. "I feel completed, because I finally got these players to understand what teamwork and leadership really is."
At the beginning of the season, Coach Pearly was low on players, so Principal Shawn Preston, Sr. suggested she give some of the younger students a chance to play on the team.
"We had three 6th graders. Two dropped out because it was too hard, but Alex [Guidry] stayed," Coach Pearly recalled. "She wasn't as good as the other players, but she tried and worked so hard. She practiced all season."
All of that hard work paid off on Wednesday, Feb. 5 during the final home game of the regular season. The team had a sizable lead on the opposing team, Labadieville, so Alex was called off the bench to get her shot to show her dedication.
"I put her in the game and I told all the 8th graders to help her get a shot. I just wanted her to know that she's as strong as every player on the team," Coach Pearly explained. "They blocked out and got gave her the ball. She tried five times and every time they caught the rebound they gave her the ball back. Then she made the shot."
The crowd roared when Alex sunk the shot and it was all caught on camera.
"Every time I look at the video I tear up," said Brad Hill, a father who attended the game and recorded video of the special moment. "It was like the whole gym, everyone there, wanted her to score. It was really emotional."
No one was more emotional than Alex.
"She was crying. She walked over to the sideline while the game was still going on and I told her to go back into the game," Coach Pearly said. "There wasn't a dry eye in the bleacher."
Napoleonville won the game, but for everyone who witnessed that moment, the true victory was the show of support among teammates.
"Her parents came down to thank me and all the staff and fans were thanking us because it was so emotional," Coach Pearly said. "Even the parents of the opposing team came down to say they were happy to be part of that moment."
For most of the young ladies on the team, that game taught them a lesson they will never forget.
"After the game, one of my 8th graders came up to me and said that she finally understood what I was trying to make them learn for the past 3 years," Coach Pearly said. "That was a special moment."
Napoleonville will play Belle Rose on Wednesday for the final game of the regular season.