Urbana, Missouri is home to just over 400 people, 16 girls basketball Final Four appearances, and six state championships. “I think kids here fall in love with the process,” said Skyline head coach Kevin Cheek.
Since Cheek became head coach here at Skyline in 1999, every 4-year player here has played in a Final Four.
“When they graduate and take that process away, there’s a certain percentage [of former players] that need that,” Cheek said, when asked why so many former Skyline players get into coaching.
And other basketball programs want that. So it was no surprise to Cheek when Missouri’s Class 3 first-place, second-place, and third-place teams all had assistant coaches who had played for Skyline.
“It was awesome,” Cheek said. “This Final Four was different. We’d like to hang onto everybody but we can’t. We don’t have that many jobs.”
To win their first state championship of any kind, Fair Grove beat the Lady Tigers in the semifinal while leaning on assistant Carrie Green, whose name was Carrie Long when she won the state title with Skyline in 1996 and 1997. They emulated the system that’s worked so well for Skyline. “The Skyline way of basketball is gritty, toughness, and it wouldn’t be anything without defense,” said Green. “And they just play fast and they play hard.”
In the state championship game against El Dorado Springs Green’s daughter, Kameron led the comeback as the team’s leading scorer. Her other daughter Abbey drew the championship-sealing charge. “That’s Skyline basketball to a tee,” Green said.
Of course, their opponent in that game was also playing that brand of basketball. Assistant coach Alexa Mays was Alexa Beck when she played on back-to-back Final Four teams at Skyline in 2013 and 2014. “Four years ago when I started coaching the mindset here was, you know, if we can get to a district title game,” said Mays.
And now they’ve just wrapped up playing for their second straight state championship. Whatever happens between these programs in the future, it’s fun, But it’s also awkward. “If that’s what it takes for us to win a state title I’m OK with it,” Mays said. “Do I want to play them? Not really.”
“It’s always a little bit awkward maybe,” Green said, “We’re always rooting for them unless we’re playing for them.”
“It’s not frustrating, it’s flattering in a way,” Cheek said. “I think it’s probably a testament to how we went about things.”
And that may lead to more Lady Tigers roaming the sidelines in the near future.