By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Amy Sutton’s second season as head coach of Lafayette’s girls basketball team was memorable for 26 forgettable reasons.
Her Lady Commodores lost 26 games in 2008 and won only three.
“We had a few girls who decided not to come back that year,” Sutton said, looking back. “It was a transition year for everybody.
“I had to throw some freshmen into the fire early. It was a shock … and frustrating.”
Those same freshmen who absorbed all those defeats produced plenty of victories during the 2009-10 season. They helped Lafayette win 29 games and reach the MHSAA Class 4A state tournament semifinals.
Of the team’s three losses, two were to the state’s top-ranked team, New Albany, and the other was in the state tournament to eventual 4A champion and Grand Slam champion Raymond.
“Those freshmen stayed with me to build the program up to what it is now,” Sutton, 32, said. “We talked to them about playing as a team, getting on the court with that mindset. I don’t think you can go wrong with that.
“Our motto was: ‘Together everyone achieves more.’ We didn’t do a bad job.”
For her efforts in turning around Lafayette’s program, Sutton has been named the Daily Journal’s All-Area Girls Coach of the Year for 2009-10.
Sutton, a Pearl native, just completed her fifth season at Lafayette, her fourth as the head coach. She moved to Oxford from Laurel, where she had been a middle school head coach and high school assistant.
Jeff Nelson, Lafayette’s athletics director and a long-time girls basketball coach at rival Oxford High School, said Sutton has been successful because of her work ethic.
“She demands a lot from those kids; she’s tough on them,” he said. “She also cares about them. She gets results because of her work ethic and the examples she sets.”
Nelson also likes her competitive nature.
“She turns over every little leaf to find something that might help her win,” he said. “She also handles losses and bad situations a lot better than I ever did.”
Sutton replaced a successful veteran coach, Tim Wilder, after serving as his assistant for one season.
“When Tim left, he told me, ‘She’s not going to miss a beat,’ ” Nelson said.
Sutton is already looking forward to next season with the return of three starters: guards Shaquilla Isom and Mykira Buford and forward Nikki McChristian. Isom and McChristian were starters on that 2008 team.
“We lost to Raymond this year and they won it all,” she said. “We lost to the best. That shows the shape we’re in and what we’re capable of.”