Nixa bench breathes new life into season
They could barely keep it together.
When sitting down for an unfamiliar on-camera interview, the girls couldn't help but giggle, dab, joke, and let their composure just fall through the floor. It was plain to see how these four freshman at Nixa High School could affect a team.
Their coach agreed.
"That's them every day."
Jennifer Perryman gave Shyla Horgan, Allison Brumley, Lakin Copeland, and Drue Lawrence an idea midway through the season that would change its entire complexion.
"It was after the Pink & White Lady Classic," she said. "We had a lot of inexperience and we weren't having a lot of success. We were trying to fight through that and we were looking for any positive thing."
The Lady Eagles were 3-7 after reaching the district championship game the previous year.
"There was no energy whatsoever and Coach Perryman pointed it out multiple times," Lawrence said.
Rather than let the campaign continue down the rails heading into COC-Large play, Perryman gathered her girls to show them a video. It was footage of the growingly infamous Monmouth University bench. The viral sensation became known for their bench celebrations, ranging from dancing, pop culture references, and general outbursts of adrenaline.
The freshmen, at first, took it as a joke, but asked Perryman if this would really fly in their games.
"I said that it would be awesome. They said: 'Are you serious?' I said: 'Let's do it. You can do whatever you want, you have the green light, practice make a list."
With the exhuberance of most first-year high school students, the girls took the opportunity and ran with it.
"She said we could do it as long as we don't get (a technical). We haven't been T'd up yet!," Brumley said. "We made a list on the board for people to write requests of what they wanted to see. We got a lot of them from that."
Thus, their repoitare was born. The girls were soon dunking on a human hoop, pulling their shooting shirts over their heads and flexing, and riding each other as surfboards. It's nearly impossible to ignore, and they, too, have made the social media rounds.
"The day we came in after the first night we did it, there were a lot of teachers saying they saw us on Facebook or Twitter," Horgan said. "It's exciting."
And it paid off. The Lady Eagles went on a seven-game win streak to start 2016 and now sit 14-11. Perryman called the crowd for opening night of these antics the best of the year.
It's a growing love affair.
The varsity team put in a petition to bring the girls to dress on the road with them, despite having hit their game limit as junior varsity players. The four entered a recent game with Nixa holding a large lead, and the upperclassment paid back their enthusiasm with the same bench celebrations.
"I just notice a better atmosphere. It's not as quiet or as mundane and our kids respond to it," she said. "I use the word 'contagious' a lot because that's really what it is. As many road games as we've had, it's been huge for our success. With them, we feel at home everywhere we play."
The group that proclaims: "The bench show is lit" will be needed again in this week's district tournament in Joplin, starting Monday against Neosho.
"Everyone's just having a lot more fun," Copeland said. "They're realizing that basketball is fun and that's why we started playing."
And it's a tradition they trust their successors to pass on when they become starters.