First Posted: 3/2/2011
Three games away from a state championship will make any coach sweat.
The three-month grind of high school basketball comes down to eight quarters that will ultimately make or break a season and by most accounts, leave you cherished or forgotten.
Normally defined by nervousness as eyes peer toward the other end of the floor, South Robesons pre-game routine in Fayetteville tonight against Southwest Onslow will, in fact, be its guiding light.
Coach Lula Ratley will have a clear mind from the bench as she watches her team go through layup lines and practice their jump shots. She wont worry and isnt planning on tinkering with the starting lineup.
Instead, shell be closing her eyes and moving her lips in prayer, pressing her hand to heart against her royal blue blouse.
Ratley puts this game, like all other contests, in Gods hands.
Everything I do is for Him, Ratley said. My faith is certainly elevated this week.
Ratley has shown her gratitude for a higher power as long as she has been coaching.
Her strong faith has become an integral part of her message, one she displays publicly with her players and the press and privately amongst family and friends.
An avid Christian and follower in His steps, Rowlands soft-spoken instructor prays before and after games and says her teams success over the last two seasons falls directly on her spirituality. Its the main reason she decided to coach.
Ratley doesnt worry about scouting reports and doesnt have time to scream at players after misfortune.
She is only on the sidelines to serve Him, reiterating the notion shortly after every game.
I dont have to tell my players (about the Lord), Ratley said. They initiate prayer in reference to Him every game during the season. Hes been with us all along. God is good and my girls know that.
Like a player kneeling in reverence after a touchdown or a slugger kissing his pendant as he crosses the plate, Ratley points upward after every win. In an athletic realm too often filled with prima donnas, posers and irrelevant attention mongers, Ratley deflects praise and says her talents as a coach for young women are heavenly-based.
And thats refreshing.
Hes all we need, Ratley said. And He has blessed our team to be in this position, again.
South Robeson has been Robeson Countys most consistent team over the last two seasons, winning back-to-back Three Rivers Conference championships while compiling a 7-1 record in the state playoffs. Led by senior guards Nicorie Sinclair and Krista Davis, the Mustangs are right where they expected to be coming off last years trip to the East Regional final.
Both standouts, playing in their final games as prep basketball players, would like nothing more than a state title. And luckily for them, they have been guided down the right road and instructed by one of the countys best.
With Gods guidance says Ratley, anything is possible.
I believe her.
Staff writer Brad Crawford can be reached at (910) 272-6119 or at [email protected]