- Special Sections
- Public Notices
It was a good thing that Destiny was on Anderson County’s side Friday afternoon.
Without her, the middle school state championship trophy might be residing in Whitley County today, just a long 3-pointer from the Tennessee line in Williamsburg.
And yes, we said her. Destiny. Proper noun. Destiny Stewart.
She’s not the one who puts up the gaudy numbers that would cause the world of recruiting analysts to beat a path to town. She’s not the fastest or quickest, and heaven knows Stewart is not the biggest basketball player for the Anderson County Lady Mustangs.
Not that it matters.
In a hoops era where style often outweighs substance, Stewart’s game is as traditional as steak and potatoes. Nothing fancy, just harass your opponent, push the ball and get it to the right person.
When crunch time came in the state championship game Friday, that right person was Destiny Stewart.
With Whitley building a ring around Anderson star Eriel McKee and with the rest of the Lady Mustangs suffering Rupp Arena jitters with an off shooting night, it was Stewart who delivered the spark to the title.
Deadlocked at the uncharacteristically low count of 21, it was Stewart who launched a 3-pointer from the right corner.
After Whitley had scored again, it was Stewart – she’s about 5-foot-3 – who drove into the land of Lady Colonel trees. Whitley had one 6-footer and two others that appeared to be about 5-9 or so.
Stewart kissed the ball off the glass, then stepped to the line to complete an old-fashioned three-point play.
In the first 19:58, Stewart had scored just one point. With the title on the line, she marked six in 46 seconds. She finished with nine points.
After that 46-second burst, Whitley was a beaten team.
And it was vintage Lady Mustang basketball, which has produced many different heroes through 65 straight wins.
Friday, it was Stewart. Other games it might have been McKee, who led Anderson in the final with 13 points and a bushel of rebounds. In the first half, when Whitley had taken a lead, it was Corrin Robinson, then Makenzie Cann burying 3-pointers that calmed a visibly jittery Anderson team that was not only gunning for a state championship, but also an unblemished middle school career.
Cann’s bomb, 22 seconds before the halftime break, put Anderson up 18-16. The Lady Mustangs never trailed again.
It was Alex Avritt coming up with a key offensive rebound that ended with McKee completing a 3-point play. It was Taylor Boggs coming off the bench to play tight defense. Friday, Anderson coach Clay Birdwhistell used only six players until the outcome was in hand, but through the year, all 15 players have been vital.
In fact, the one constant Birdwhistell has mentioned all season has been that he might not know who it would be, but someone always came through.
“We’ve had a lot of kids contribute all year,” Birdwhistell said in the bowels of Rupp Arena.
It was fitting that the guy I have nicknamed “Wooden” – Birdwhistell has not tasted defeat very often since becoming a coach – was making his comments with the entrance to the Kentucky Wildcats’ dressing room just down the hall.
These Lady Mustangs won, won big, and eventually won the biggest trophy available to kids on their level. And they did it as a group that seemed to care much more about victories than who gets the glory.
It is substance over style.
Friday, Anderson was a team of Destiny.
For three years, though, they’ve been the Mustangs of destiny. A state championship destiny.
E-mail John Herndon at firstname.lastname@example.org.