The Washington Panthers strive for their second girls' basketball state title
SOUTH BEND, Ind -- The Washington girls' basketball team has been a storied franchise for years and this year is no different as they continue to set the bar high by reaching their state finals for a second straight year.
For all teams, the goal is to have a successful season but at Washington High School, the standard is to win state championships.
Something that both players and fans strive toward since the team won its first title in 2007.
"The memories of just going down state. Everybody would tell you put the pressure like I’m sure they doing with coach Steve now. They’re like we booked our rooms already so you know, I’m like it’s just regionals you know what I mean? What do you mean you booked your room?," said Former Washington girls basketball head coach Maurice "Moe" Scott.
Maurice or Moe Scott, took over as the head coach at Washington in 2008.
One year after the teams first state title win over Columbus East.
However in his first year at the helm, losing in the final seconds of the teams fourth straight state finals appearance.
"We lose at the buzzer man and that was tough man you still relive those moments man but I think most important a out that man we were able to feed a community that needed to be fed," said Scott.
Since that loss in the 2008-2009 season coach Steve Reynolds has taken over as the head coach, leading the panthers to their first finals appearance last year.
"They changed the community so fast forward to now that’s what we want to do you know and it’s taking a lot of work. A ton of work," said Washington girls basketball coach Steve Reynolds.
But the work may not be as difficult if you have someone who can teach the panthers what it takes to capture a state championship.
That’s where current coach and former player who played alongside Skylar Diggins during the 2007 state championship comes into play.
"It’s been 15 years and it still brings back memories like it happened yesterday. Especially just being in this gym, practicing every day. I still look up there every day like oh my gosh we really won you know," said Washington girls basketball assistant coach Karis Phillips.
Karis and the team lost in the state finals during the 2006-2007 season but won the next season in.
Fast forward to this year, the panthers hope to repeat history by bringing the hardware home the second time around.
"You know I was disappointed of course because I really wanted to get that for the seniors. Them not bringing that home but this year being my senior year I feel like I’m going to have even more motivation inside of me so hopefully we can bring it home," said Washington girls basketball player Mila Reynolds.
"The feeling is just going to feel great so it’s like it’s an unimaginable feeling to have," said Washington girls basketball player Rashunda Jones.
With the panthers being the favorite it’s bringing joy to someone who was once in this position.
"I’m happy that we doing this again man. I’m so excited. So excited," said Scott.
But who could be more excited than head coach Steve Reynolds as he gets a chance to win a state championship which would make him the second African American head coach to win a state finals in girls basketball in Indiana.
He’d be doing it with his wife Marcy Reynolds by his side an assistant coach and his three oldest children on the floor at the same time.
"I love basketball. I share that passion with Marcy who’s my wife. Who’s also the assistant coach. Been with me every year except one year and that was for the birth of Tristian who’s our seventh of the Reynolds children," said Steve Reynolds.
As for the Reynolds on the court, having Mila, Amiyah, and Kira all on the floor at the same time has been special for the team and the family.
"When we put that ball in the girls’ hands when they younger, something special we knew was happening. Didn’t know how special," said Steve Reynolds.
Today the city of South Bend and all of Michiana knows how special.
And in 24 hours – the same two girls who played on the Skylar Diggins-Smith AAU team five years ago aim to bring home the same trophy that Skylar brought to the pride of the west side 15 years ago.
The theme for this year is "Run It Back" and what better theme is there when you're facing the Silver Creek Dragons in a rematch from the last year's class 3A state championship.
The panthers will play at 6 p.m. eastern time at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.