HHS Class of 1987
Written By: Coach Marty Grey
I was fortunate enough to coach Cynthia in basketball and track during her four years at Hillsboro High School. She was a 7th grader when Coach Perales and I arrived at Hillsboro and we only had one coach to cover both the 7th and 8th grade teams which were scheduled in old Dowdy Gym at the same time. So I worked with Coach Henderson during that year and would run drills with whichever group she wasn’t working with. It was apparent even at that early date that Cynthia was going to be something special. Even better, she was surrounded with talented classmates.
In evidence of how special she was, a short list of what I remember of her accomplishments: 4 year all-district in volleyball; 4 year all-district in basketball, and senior year 1st team all-state TABC; state meet in track in both 800 m relay and 400 meter dash. In track, I always thought she would have made a great heptathlete. At different time she ran 23.8 for 200 meters, 57.2 at 400 m., threw the shot 37”8’, discus 129’4”, and triple jumped 38 ft. In basketball, she provided a defensive presence that was an amazing asset. Her senior year she averaged over 2.5 blocks per game and the number should have been at least half again that large due to officials calling fouls on clean blocks. The officials were just not used to seeing a big kid with that sort of agility and quickness. Offensively, her scoring average was never high because as a team, we often didn’t need her to score. We had others who could and did score, but when it came down to the clutch shot we had to have, the ball was going through Cynthia’s hands. I know that through much of her senior year she was averaging more rebounds than points. Something like 15 points and 17 rebounds.
As physically gifted as Cynthia was, I feel there were two things that set her apart from other talented players. First was her love of defense. From the time she was a 7th grader, you could see joy she got in denying the opposition a chance to score, taking the ball away, and heading the other direction.
Coaches will tell you that offense is for fans and parents, but defense is for team and coach. When Cynthia was a freshman, I pulled her up to the varsity. Partially because I thought she would develop faster against better competition and partly because we didn’t have any upperclassmen any better than her as an 9th grader. In one of the early season tournaments in Mexia we were playing Fairfield, coached by Ron Janzen who later came to Hillsboro to coach boys. He
had two really good little guards and on their opening possession, one of them drove the lane and Cynthia blocked her shot and also whacked the kid right on top of the head and laid her out. Foul in the first 30 seconds. I took her out and reminded her to keep some space and take the ball off the top. I told her to sit down and I would get her back in pretty quick. After a couple of minutes we were ten or so behind, so I called Cynthia, reminded her about avoiding the fouls and sent her back in. First possession for Fairfield, the little guard penetrates and Cynthia brads her right in the face. Two fouls, maybe 40 seconds of playing time. I let my own frustrations boil over and pulled her out and gave her a chewing that no ninth grader ever deserves. “You cannot play out of control! You will never be a player if you don’t manage yourself and listen to me. You can’t ignore the things we practice at every day just because you are excited about game day. Now go sit down at the end of the bench and decide whether you want to be a player or not.” The irony is that I was guilty of the same things I am ranting at her about. The quarter ends with us double figures down, and I look at the bench and see five or six angry faces looking at me and one sad ninth grader at the end of the bench with tear tracks running down her cheeks. I realize what an ass I have made of myself and after talking to the players out on the court and sending them back out for the second quarter, I motion for Cynthia to come up so I can apologize to her. She jumps up and practically runs up to me and says, “Coach, I’m sorry, if you will give me another chance, I promise I will listen and be a player.” One of us was handling things well, and it wasn’t old coach. I sent her back in and shut up. And by the time district started, she was the best post player on every court for the next three years. We didn’t win that game, but we won district and by-district for the first time since the 1950’s. She kept her promise—she was a player.
The other attribute that made Cynthia special was that she was a great teammate. Every coach will tell you that when your best player is you hardest worker, you have something special. And when that player wants to be a winner and not a star, it gets even better. And when that star works to make everyone better, the coach has been smacked by the good luck fairy’s wand. That was Cynthia and that was me. So without reservation of any kind I thank Doc and Hillsboro High School for recognizing someone who is largely responsible for putting Eagle girls sports back on the map. She richly deserves this status. Love and thanks to all.