Margaret Head recalls the day Montgomery Academy girls basketball coach Barry Fencher came to her and asked her to play basketball.
Head, an accomplished soccer player who also participated in volleyball, had her doubts about the hardwood.
“He asked me to play in the seventh and eighth grade and I didn’t know if I could be good at it,” she said. “I came out in the ninth grade for JV and he told me he didn’t care if I thought I could be good or not, he could coach me. The rest is history.”
Now a senior, Head is the one player most responsible for the 15-game winning streak of the Lady Eagles (25-2) as they head into the postseason by hosting the area tournament on Wednesday. While MA is deep at the guard position and there are developing candidates at strong forward, Head has already spent three years on the court honing her craft.
“What people have to understand is that when I went and got Margaret three years ago, Margaret had never played basketball before I got her pretty much off the soccer field and begged her to play,” Fencher said. “Year after year, she had just continued to grow and now she’s a force to be reckoned with.”
With four trips to the state semifinals in the last five years, Fencher knows his team must develop an inside game to go along with the traditionally strong play of the guards.
“We’re getting what we want, pretty much, out of the guard spots,” Fencher said. “Our inside game is where I want to see development in these last few games so that we’ll have an inside presence and an outside presence.”
Head is quick to acknowledge the need for stronger play in the paint and is working with the young post players Anaya Thomas and AC Chapman.
“We focus a lot on that,” she said, “and I’m really fortunate that I can be a part of that. At practice sometimes, I give out pointers here and there and then I can see in the game, through their accomplishments, that they’ve been listening. That’s good to see.”
A fan favorite, particularly among the students, Head is the team’s only senior who had a few moments to reflect after she was honored on Senior Night.
“It was a little surreal,” she said. “There is a lot of momentum going into these last few games and to slow down and think (about her last season) -- because I wouldn’t be here without my teammates, anyway -- we’ve just put in a lot of work and it’s just surreal that I’m a senior. It’s real now.”
Since the regional format was introduced in 1994, Montgomery Academy has reached the state playoffs 21 times in those 25 years, including 11 area tournament championships. That run includes an impressive 16 sub-regional wins, 13 trips to the regional finals and nine trips to the state semifinals, including six in the last eight years.
A trip to Birmingham is part of the Montgomery Academy basketball tradition and missing out with a sub-regional loss last year still lingers with the returning players.
“I feel 100 percent that we can get there,” Head said. “We’ve got a few things here and there that we need to fix, but I feel like as long as we all buy in and really focus and do what we need to do, I feel like we can get back. Because it’s all on us. If we’re going to lose, it’s because of us.”