In Anthony Alford's first year as the Judge girls basketball coach, he knows he has a lot more responsibilities than guiding his team on the court.
"Being an athlete is a privilege," Alford said. "Students look up to these kids, and we need to make sure these kids are making the right decisions. When everyone is on the same page and with the same goals, it's easier to stay away from negative choices."
Alford has challenged his team to meet a higher standard to help erase the memory of last year's Class 3A state tournament, when two players were caught consuming alcohol during a room check. The two offending players were sent home by school administrators, and 12 other students later were placed on probation for not reporting the incident, which is a violation of Judge's code of conduct.
Alford's message was received loud and clear by the players. During a preseason meeting with the parents, senior Tyree Snyder said there was no ambiguity in what is expected from the players.
"We took it down as a team it was a very bad decision," Snyder said. "We will work hard to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Junior point guard Sadie Sewell said high school is too short to make bad decisions. The negative attention the school received, and the distraction it created at the 3A state championship, isn't the experience that Sewell and the other players want to remember from high school.
"No one thought it was worth it," Sewell said. "To work so hard and to come up short, we all knew that we can't go through that again."
The Bulldogs are on pace to return to the playoffs. They started the week 6-1 behind junior Kailie Quinn's dominating scoring prowess and a solid defense. The players already moved on but won't forget the lessons from last season.
"We are always learning from our mistakes," Snyder said. "It's the only way we can grow and get better in life."