Once again, the Sampson Longshots senior ladies basketball team is headed to the state finals. This is their 16th trip in a row, as they have now been every year since 2000.
The berth in the state finals this season once again comes from winning the Mid-Carolina Senior Games, which were held at Methodist University a few weeks back. There, the 65-70 year old age group dominated the competition, as they have become accustomed to doing.
The games are not completely the same as normal basketball, as this is not a full-court ordeal, and games are played in the half-court set. These games are played as 3 on 3 games as opposed to the usual 5 on 5. Changes in possession must be cleared behind the 3-point line, but other than that, NCAA basketball rules govern all play.
The team is made up of 5 players, so rotations can be key in keeping fresh legs on the floor. Those players are Dianne Cox, Dianne Naylor, Bevie Pope, Becky Tyndall and Cathy Register. The other component that makes this team run as effectively as it does is the coach.
Fred Holland has been the coach of the Longshots since 1998, when he began coaching after the ladies said they would not continue to play without having a coach.
“Some ladies got together a long time ago and decided they were going to play in this thing. They said they wouldn’t play anymore without a coach in 1998, so I decided I would do it,” said Holland.
He also admitted that it’s not such a bad gig, and said that the ladies are always more than willing to put in the work necessary to be successful.
“As I’ve said many times before, it is a lot of fun to coach these ladies,” he said. “I don’t tell them what to do, I ask, and they normally do it. It is a good relationship that we have, but I really don’t have to stress too much of anything. It is really cool to me that they are dedicated to the game so much. That in itself says a lot.”
Holland and the Longshots have created quite a dynasty in the ladies basketball sector of the North Carolina Senior Games. They enter each year as favorites in the Mid-Carolina games, a tournament that features teams from Sampson, Harnett, and Cumberland counties.
In the past two years, they won the state finals, and are looking to do the same this year as they are set to be played at the ECU Student Center in October. There are only National Finals every other year, and this is the year for National Finals. A third straight state final championship would secure another trip to the National Finals, which is definitely something that these ladies and their coach have their eyes set on.
Reach Adam Capps at 910-214-9585.