Lady Horses make us proud on and off the court

When the Clinton High School bus roared into Sampson County Saturday night, a police escort leading the way, on board were a group of exuberant young ladies who had just won the state 2A basketball championship. The thrill of victory was fresh; the smiles of accomplishment well earned.

In front of them, or perhaps behind them, were car load after car load of excited Clinton supporters, men, women and children who made the trek to Raleigh to cheer on the Lady Dark Horses, showing their hometown pride in a group of young women who were champions long before they lifted their prize trophy in the air Saturday night.

On social media, that pride poured out in chants of Lady Horses and Clinton loves you, words of praise by those declaring themselves Dark Horse Proud, with photos being shared time after time after time of the girls hoisting that trophy or flashing that No. 1 sign, those smiles of victory very evident on their beaming faces.

The accolades have been earned by head coach Chris Owens and the mighty Lady Horses, who finished the season 30-2 and brought to their hometown the school’s third basketball state championship, the first since 1990.

But those accolades don’t just come because of a stellar season or a championship banner. They come because of a group of young women who have carried themselves like winners all season long, on the court, in the classroom and in their communities, accepting words of praise humbly, showing gratitude for their teammates and appreciation for their coach.

They’ve displayed good sportsmanship throughout the season, and they have been hard-working athletes who understand that their behavior off the court is as important as it is on the court. They have been examples for their fellow students in many ways, perhaps most importantly by showing the importance of teamwork.

Our Lady Horses worked hard to get this championship, and they worked together to make it happen.

While we’d be remiss not to mention basketball standout Mikayla Boykin, who has broken just about every school and state high school basketball record there is, scoring 31 points in the championship game, this group of women have been about the team. That’s been especially true of Boykin, whose enormous talent shines even brighter when accentuated by the extraordinary talents of her teammates.

It is because they all work together toward one common goal that they were able to earn the ultimate high school basketball prize. It was a championship garnered because of their teamwork.

We tip our hats to Owens and the Clinton squad — Boykin, Tanaziah Chestnutt, Sumiya Raynor, Kiera Mabry, Sha’Niya Nurse, Isabella Faison, Ashlyn Williams, Alex Canady, Charica Joyner, Zebria Vann, Dekyla Moore, Destiny Faircloth, Jada Lee and Mariah Boone-Whitted — for a superb season and a wonderful finale that made us all shout for joy.

We are proud of our Lady Horses for what they accomplished on the court, but we are prouder still of the young women they are becoming.