Two young women who have etched their names in Leavenworth High School history will embark on being the second senior class in consecutive years that can claim being a part of a basketball program that competed in four straight Class 5A state tournaments.
So far, these two have been a part of two championships – 2014 and 2015 – and a one-point loss in last year’s title tilt.
Wednesday, the two will lead the Pioneers toward a hoped for third ring and make it four-for-four in making it to a state title game, when Leavenworth opens state tournament play at Topeka’s Expocentre against Newton at 6:30 p.m.
When the dust settles, these two players will no longer play for the white, blue and black and will move to college ball – Moore at Arkansas-Little Rock and Hayward at Northwest Missouri State – but their impacts are undeniable.
“I do not think either one of them have missed a summer workout, camp or game,” Leavenworth head coach Jordan Mellott said. “Their dedication to the program has provided a great example of what it takes to be at the top. They have both carried a 3.5 or higher GPA all throughout high school. They have bought into whatever we as a staff have asked them. They are both great players that any program would love to have to build a team around or to add to a team. That is what makes them great – they play the role that is needed, neither one is selfish, they just want to be successful and win.
“T is a competitor and winner, she is not one for emotions but she shows how much she loves this game and loves to win and to be successful by her actions and productivity on the court. Zo has maybe heard her name from my voice more in four years than she has in her 18 years of life, but she has truly grown into a great role model for our program and will make a great coach and teacher.”
The two have offered backcourt excellence during their time playing for the Pioneers and Moore has found herself playing – and excelling – in the post this season when they went to a small lineup.
“Terrion brings a sense of confidence that is undeniable,” Mellott said. “She has the ability to pull up, shoot the 3, break you down and attack the basket, or pass it off for a wide-open shot. The things she can do creates a lot of opportunities for other players around her.
“Zoie has the ability to stretch a defense with her jump shot and to get teams to worry about her shooting 3s than go by for a pull up. She has a high IQ on the court sometimes to a fault and over thinks things but for the most part makes the smart play.
“These two complement each other a lot on the offensive end with their ability to handle the ball and score but also their ability to find one another. The next biggest thing is their ability to defend. Our defense with those two out there can sometimes be amazing to watch. Obviously it’s not just those two but they trap really well together and just have an awareness of one another that is hard to duplicate. It will be a big loss for our program but just as it has in the past we will have other kids step up. But they will undoubtedly be missed on and off the court.”
What both offer to each other is undeniable.
“I was fortunate enough to play with Terrion prior to coming to Leavenworth,” Hayward said. “We traveled with AAU and came in the summer of freshman year together. She's been a great player and teammate. She's so versatile, and she just does it all, she's a hard player to stop. Terrion came in as a freshman and started for us and had always been such an asset the team. It's been cool watching her grow over the years. Little Rock has a good one coming down there and I'm excited to see her success there."
Moore reciprocates some of those feelings with her fellow running mate.
“It’s been fun,” Moore said. “She’s a good shooter and has the ideals for the game and has the feeling for it. She’s social and she’s a good person and keeps the (camaraderie going).”
Of course, when the mantle gets passed, these seniors will entrust current juniors Aarika Lister and Cierra Robinson to step forward and lead the way.
“I can trust that Cierra and Aarika will continue to uphold the legacy that the Leavenworth girls’ basketball has been building for the past five years,” Hayward said. “I've played with Cierra since since grade school and the amount of progress she has made and is continuing to make is phenomenal. She is such a hard worker and has been so dedicated, it's paid off her for so much. She's been so beneficial.
“Aarika is 110 percent all the time and brings so much hype and energy and that's why I love being on the court with her. She came in freshman year and I have known her for a while and got to watch her play. I remember going to Warren Middle School when we went to help with the eighth grade and the girl couldn’t make a layup. The ball could not keep up with her. She came in a little rattled as a freshman as any would be in a big-time program. … Sophomore year she came in after working so hard over the summer. She came in and defended for us. Junior year comes along and who is Aarika Lister? She’s big-time, making the plays and can always count that every time she goes up, nine out of 10 I know it’s going in. She’s been a great asset to our success.”
“Aarika plays a huge role now, she’s come a long way,” Moore said. “She’s athletic, she’s a good basketball player and she learns quickly and has the ability to pick up things.”
Mellott agrees with Lister’s prowess that has seen exponential growth this year.
“Reek has had a one of a kind year and she is proof that it doesn't matter if you can't make a layup at the start of your freshman year because with hard work and dedication to something you can be great at anything you put your mind to,” Mellott said.
Lister values what the two seniors have given the program.
“They mean a lot and they set a very high standard for a lot of girls,” Lister said. “They’ve done a lot to contribute to the team and given a lot of things that other girls haven’t. Being able to go to state ever since they were freshmen, so that’s a lot.
“I look up to both of them because they are both good at what they do and they go hard no matter what. They give me the confidence to do what I do.”
Four years is a nice chunk of time and it has given Mellott plenty of fodder to think of his fondest memories with the two girls.
“I will never forget their summer going into their sophomore year when we would spend another hour after weights shooting in the gym,” Mellott said. “It was always a challenge to hit five 3s in a row and if they did then I owed them ice cream. It was a turning point for both of them that summer they just got that much better over that summer.
“(For Hayward) her signing day was something I will never forget. I was so happy for her. At a summer camp, I think she was the one that started the hide and go seek in Target with the whole team. With Terrion, I would have to say her signing day too and how happy she was to do an interview. Or during the summer and they played a prank on me and the coaching staff and they had to do wall sits for it at the hotel.”
The memories will continue to flow and Hayward will miss it when it comes to an end.
“Winning three out of the four years would be a huge accomplishment,” Hayward said. “No girls’ basketball players (from LVHS) have done that before and it'd be awesome to be the first. But I also want to win this because the younger girls are so deserving of this. They've worked tremendously hard and they deserve a huge reward for that. And winning state this year would be a great way to send off a couple of the girls who aren't returning next year.
“(The sub-state final) Friday night was a very emotional night. It was my last game on the home court and walking off for one last time was tough. It's been my second home for the past four years. Playing in there is always so fun because the community and school are always so supportive.”
The memory of the run will stick with Moore if only for what the Pioneers were able to do.
“Just to be able to say you did it (made four straight state tournaments),” Moore said. “It’s been special, but more fun, because not many people can say they’ve done this. It’s about the fun we’ve had on and off the court.
“When the big three left (after 2015) it was something we had to overcome. It wasn’t hard, it was something new. It was also fun too because it was a challenge. It was important in the fact that we could still do it without them. It boosted our confidence.”
Moore’s disposition is one of calm and cool when it comes to the game and win or lose this week, she believes that it’s full speed ahead.
“Life goes on after basketball and I am not going to get better dwelling on a game we’ve lost already,” Moore said. “It’s time to move forward and worry about the next steps you are going to face.
“It would be sweet to win, don’t get me wrong. I am just saying it’s not the end all.”