girls basketball

From left: Seniors Kourtney Balluch, Brylee Graff, Jayla Pierce, Melia Martin, Kate Erpelding and Harleigh Moore practice ahead of the game Friday night.

Six seniors on the EHS girls basketball team will suit up for their last regular season home game tonight against Piper.

Over the past four years, the seniors on the basketball team have built strong relationships with each other and the community. While the players couldn’t enjoy a full student section or fans packing the stands this year, they still get to have fun with their teammates, whom many of the girls also call their family.

Senior Jayla Pierce has appreciated the bond she has had with her teammates.

“I mostly love just our relationships that we have with each other,” she said. “We’re very tight. We’ve played with each other for a long time, and so we have a good culture here and it just makes practices really fun.”

While playing under head coach Brandon Parker, she learned to be more confident in her game.

“I’ve learned to believe in myself, honestly,” she said. “Before I would play timidly, and he just made me realize that you have to believe in yourself and know that you can do it."

Pierce said she will miss playing in Eudora because of the community and how many people would come out to show support each game. Pierce committed to play softball at Rockhurst University in November, and she hopes she will experience the same support in her college career that she did in Eudora.

Senior Brylee Graff has also enjoyed encouragement from the community and teachers at the school.

 “The encouragement from the whole town, the whole community supports, and when you come to school the next day, all the teachers and principals tell you ‘good job,’ and they watch the game even if they weren’t there personally,” she said.

Basketball has been Graff’s favorite sport since around second grade, and she loves the team aspect of the sport. As she approaches her final regular season home game, she is excited, but said it may be emotional.

“I’m excited to go out there and just be recognized for all the four years I’ve been playing, and I’m gonna probably cry from all the, like, missing everyone,” she said.

Senior Melia Martin has enjoyed practicing and playing with her teammates the most.

“We have a really good atmosphere and attitude, and we always encourage each other,” she said.

Martin is looking forward to senior night and will miss the excitement that the student section would have during games.

“The experience in general, getting to put together one last final night for us, it’s a really good sendoff,” she said.

Although the girls had the opportunity to play this season, a couple of players acknowledged this season felt different without having more fans in attendance.

Senior Kate Erpelding said the team feels like family and it has been fun to be around them, but she also felt this season isn’t as special as it could have been.

“No one really got to see us play, and it’s just different,” she said.

Erpelding said it has been nice that some people have been able to attend, but she missed being cheered on by fellow students. Erpelding runs varsity cross country and plays varsity soccer, but she didn’t make the varsity basketball team until this year.

“For me, not being able to play [varsity] all three years until this year and no one being able to see that kinda sucks,” she said.

Senior Harleigh Moore said the experience during games has been weird because she has gotten used to not having a student section and being able to hear coaches clearly because of it.

“It’s definitely weird not having people constantly yelling,” she said.

Moore loves how the team has become family and has enjoyed playing basketball with some of the same girls she has been playing with since second grade.

“I love playing basketball and all, but I mostly come to practice and games just to be around the people that I like playing with,” she said.

The tradition of senior night is something that Moore has been looking forward to since she was a freshman.

“Because with basketball season, we have a tradition of giving out senior baskets to the seniors,” she said. “It’s always a goodbye parting gift, and I’ve always looked forward to having my moment to walk across the gym floor.”

Some of Moore’s favorite memories are from the laughs that she would share with her teammates. She said there were always plenty of inside jokes from team dinners, which they weren’t able to have this year.

Senior Kourtney Balluch said her love of basketball and her teammates kept her coming back each season.

“The girls and just loving the sport and just wanting to stay in shape,” she said. “You only get four years of this, so gotta live it up.”

Balluch said there aren’t many games left, and she looks forward to leaving everything she has on the floor.

“I just loved to be a Cardinal, and I really am glad I spent my four years here,” she said.

Parker said it has been great having six seniors who are all team players.

“They're such great individuals, and they give us zero problems. They're all in,” he said. “Whatever they can do to help the team, all six of them, they do it. We’re just so fortunate to have six quality human beings for our seniors, and they make things so much easier for everyone in the program.”

Parker said he will miss this group of seniors because of how unselfish and resilient they are.

“I am so proud of these six because they showed that toughness to come in here every day, not knowing if there would be a tomorrow,” he said. “Maybe they're playing a role they wanted, maybe they played a role where they’d like more, but they came in every day.”

The girls will face Piper tonight at home with the tip-off scheduled at 7:30 p.m.

Reach reporter Chris Fortune at eudoratimes@gmail.com.

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