Building championship-winning foundations


Jocelyn Leal, Editor-in-Chief

Holding Down the Court- Senior Tay Watson guards a player on the Braden River team. Her speed on defense gave her a bit of an advantage over the girls she has guarded. “I’m not afraid as I used to be before, my defense is on lock now,” said Watson about how she has grown since her freshman year.

The 2018-19 school year marks the fourth year that Travis Persinger has been on Manatee High School’s women’s basketball coaching staff, all the while helping it grow from a program that was described as “dead” to one that will win championships. This being Persinger’s fourth year on the coaching staff also means that seniors Lillian MacIntosh, Amersula “Grace” Jerome and Tay Watson have all been under his instruction for their four years playing basketball at Manatee, leading the charge for a program that strives to be great.

“It was kind of bad honestly, like, terrible, no sense of urgency, none of that, no effort, none of that… we’re like basically a family now, we love each other,” said MacIntosh about what the program was like when she was a freshman versus what it is like now.

This family that MacIntosh described now has 45 wins under their belts in the past four years, almost double the 24 that Manatee had in the six years before Persinger came on. The program also had not sent any girls to college in a long time and had no playoff wins and the games they played did not have any excitement or urgency. Persinger and this year’s seniors have strived to change that.

Championship Mindsets- Grace Jerome (left) runs down the court to receive a pass from Lillian MacIntosh (right). Both seniors have played under Persinger for four years, and they hoped to make this year great. “To win a championship… and get at least 20 points a game,” said Jerome about her goals for this season.

“It’s not me, it’s really the girls that have decided to be invested in the program,” stated Persinger about how the team has changed.

Now, the program has sent five girls to college to play basketball, which Persinger says is the most important thing to him and the growth of Manatee’s women’s basketball program. That team has also won a playoff game every year, which is a notable improvement over the zero in six years.

All three seniors say that they have grown as a player over their time at Manatee. Both Watson and Jerome say that they have become more confident and less afraid when they are on the court and MacIntosh says that she is better at basketball “spiritually and mentally.” The growth that these girls have experienced over the past four years has been the foundation of a program that players coming in behind them can build upon, always aiming for a championship title.

“The expectations really are to keep growing the program, it’s all a process, you know when you come and take a job like this that it’s all about growth and it’s all about building blocks and building strong foundations, so the expectations are really for us to be better tomorrow than we are today,” said Persinger about how important growth is to a basketball program like Manatee’s.

These past four years have been steps toward something greater, and much better than what the program was before Persinger and this year’s seniors, but they will not stop there. The goal is always to keep growing and moving toward a championship, because the foundations to get there have been built.

As for the seniors, they are happy to have started a family that will keep growing and will continue to strive to be the best, but they are happy to be graduating this year as well.

“I’m ready to go. Period.” stated Jerome.