Immediately following the West Hall girls basketball team’s win against Chestatee last Friday, coach Bryan Richerson finally revealed the secret he’d kept from Anna McKendree for more than two weeks.
The junior shooting guard had broken the girls school scoring record, and she was finally being honored for the accomplishment.
Not that McKendree believed it.
“I said in my head, ‘There’s no way. ‘That’s not possible,’ ” she said Wednesday. “I was shocked, I really was. I had no idea I was even close to breaking that record.”
West Hall presented McKendree with a bouquet of roses and a basketball bearing the number 1,253 — the former Lady Spartans record for career points — during halftime of the boys game last Friday.
She achieved the feat against East Hall in the first round of the Lanierland tournament Dec. 28, but Richerson decided to postpone recognizing McKendree until the team’s next home game. Winter weather caused the West Hall to reschedule its Jan. 6 game against Marist, dragging out Richerson’s reveal for another week.
“To already break the school record for girls, that’s a big accomplishment, especially being a junior,” Richerson said. “We just felt like (Lanierland) wasn’t the right place to honor her. We didn’t want that to be a focus of what we had done at Lanierland.”
Coincidentally, Lanierland is where McKendree perhaps shined brightest this season.
The junior needed only eight points against the Lady Vikings to break the record, but she scored 19 in the first-round win. McKendree nailed 3-pointers on her team’s first four possessions against Gainesville the following day and finished with 23 points to help West Hall reach the finals for the first time since 2000.
In the Lanierland championship, the 5-foot-8 guard scored 15 consecutive points in the third quarter as part of a 30-point night, despite West Hall’s loss.
“Offensively, she’s one of the best that I’ve seen in girls basketball in a while around here,” Richerson said. “ … She can score with the best of them. I think she’s probably one of the better scorers in the state.”
But McKendree is just picking up where she left off last season.
As just a sophomore, she surpassed 1,000 career points and earned The Times’ 2016 Girls Player of the Year honors. Her 21 points per game this year have the 15-4 Lady Spartans primed for a deep postseason run, but McKendree isn’t taking all the credit for her team’s success.
“My teammates, they’re the ones who get me the ball and create stuff for me to get open. I can’t do it without them,” she said. “It takes everybody for me to score that much.”
Richerson mentioned one player in particular that has assisted McKendree’s ascent in the school record books: senior guard Macy Passmore. The guard duo’s ability to score and create opportunities for teammates prevents opponents from locking in on one player, Richerson said.
“She’s my partner in crime,” McKendree said of Passmore.
Though deadly from beyond the arc, McKendree is also capable of getting to the rim. Richerson praised her ‘fearlessness’ with the ball and quick-shot release McKendree said she models after two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry.
An aggressive player on defense and in transition, the junior acknowledged she sometimes loses her cool on the court.
But where some may see a mean streak in McKendree, Richerson sees a competitive drive and strong desire to win at all costs.
“She’s got a little chip on her shoulder,” Richerson said. “She doesn’t want to lose. She wants to be perfect in everything she does. She gets upset sometimes because she’s not perfect and she doesn’t make every shot. The most important thing is she cares about perfection.”
McKendree said that’s one area of her game that needs improvement.
It’s hard to imagine her getting better in any other facet.
She scored 35 points per game during West Hall’s run to the Class AAA quarterfinals last year and has already shown her tendency to put up big numbers in critical games this season. The junior currently stands at 1,342 points and, by Richerson’s estimation, is well within reach of breaking the boys school scoring record, as well.
McKendree probably wouldn’t believe that, either.
“She’s very quiet and shy when it comes to that. She doesn’t like all the attention,” Richerson said. “She’s a very humble individual.”