It hardly seems possible that Westview’s Lady Chargers won their first state title 27 seasons ago.
The year was 1996 and a group of girls, who had a deer-in-the-headlights look in their eyes, got drummed out of the Class 2A quarterfinals by Marshall County the year before returned to the Glass House with a vengeance.
Westview was an unknown commodity. There was burgeoning evidence that the program was much improved, but three years earlier, the team was 4-22. Besides, Westview last went to substate during the 1982 season.
There wasn’t much of a consistent legacy for the Lady Chargers.
Westview negotiated the district tournament, which included tough teams like Gibson County and Obion Central. Add to that the fact that Krystal Alexander was lost for the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
Those girls persevered and battled their way to the state championship round against Livingston Academy, who featured two Miss Basketball finalists in Sunday Watson and Tiffani Krantz.
The game was a see-saw battle with both teams giving as good as they got. Westview held a two-point lead when Krantz burned a deep three from the right wing for a one-point lead with fewer than eight seconds left.
Westview’s Mona Thompson raced down the court, located tiny Tasha Atkins underneath the bucket. Atkins drove the baseline and shot. The whistle blew and Atkins was going to the free throw line. She went from euphoric to emotional in a span of two seconds. Junior teammate Crystal Hurst put her arms around Atkins and implored her to calm down.
After a time out. Atkins stepped to the line with :00.7 left on the clock. Like she’d done a zillion times at practice, she deposited both ends in the bucket and Westview captured its first state title and overnight was ranked by USA Today as the 10th best team in the nation.
That was an unforgettable game, perhaps the best finish in state history.
Fast forward to 2022. Jada Harrison is wearing a blue and gold uniform. Kylee Alexander is, too. Harrison’s mom? Tasha Atkins. Alexander’s dad was a Westview quarterback in 1990? Her Mom Crystal? Crystal Hurst. Add to that McCall Sims, whose dad was a Westview quarterback in 1984. Her mom? Former All-State Gleason point guard Kellie McElhiney, who was rooted of her chance of going to state.
Don’t get me started.
Sims’ aunt is 1999 Miss Basketball winner Ashley McElhiney, who led her team to a gold ball that same year.
There may be more connections with this team, but my brain is a fog and it’s another late night as I write this, but there are pretty good basketball pedigrees on this team. It’s not surprising that this team had amazing success.
This team stands a good chance to repeat next season, but this program will be in the cross hairs of all they encounter next season. If these kids rest on their laurels and are satisfied, 2023 will be a long season.
Knowing where these kids come from, I have every confidence that this team can, and will, go as far as it wants.
Editor’s note: Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and the host of The Pressbox radio show, which airs 4-6 p.m CT, Monday through Thursday on 95.9 FM, WRJB, Camden, Tenn.