Ryanne Smith was at work when someone approached her for her autograph.

The adult wanted it for a girl who looked to be about middle-school aged but was too shy to approach Smith for herself, she said.

“That’s something that’s probably going to stick with me for a long time,” said Smith, a senior on the Brown County High School girls basketball team.

“What I really took away from that is how much the younger generation looks up to us and how much they admire us.”

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Senior Maddy Edds was at a local gas station when a girl from one of the younger teams, whom she barely knew, asked if she wanted to go to the YMCA to play basketball. The game didn’t pan out, but the Eagles center said she was honored to have been picked out like that.

Yet, that recognition can be a little intimidating as well, the players said. Whether they are on the court or out on the town, they know they may be setting an example without even realizing it.

On the court

When it comes time to perform on the court, there is no room for getting discouraged or letting a failure get to you, Edds said.

“You’ve got to have that fire in every player,” she said. “If the five that all go out on the court don’t all have the same heart and drive as one player, or two, then you’re never going to get done what you need to get done.”

Edds talked about encouraging freshman Allison Stogsdill to keep her head in the game after missing a couple of shots in a row.

“That affects the whole team,” Edds said. “Everyone has to have that drive, or you’re not going to get anywhere.

“That’s what it is: It’s heart. If everybody has it, that’s how you win a sectional title right there.”

That heart is what Edds loves about her team, she said.

Her first two years on the team, junior center Savannah Lovins said she hated coming to practice.

“Now I want to get up in the morning every morning and come to practice,” she said. “It’s a joy to come here.”

Even over winter break, only one or two players were missing at any practice, Edds said.

“It helps that all the young girls want to get in here, too,” she said. “You can have four seniors in here, but what can we do with four people? So it helps that everybody else has the drive to get up and come here, and make us better, make the team better.”

Sophomore Dasia Wilkerson said she can feel the difference over the previous year, especially as one of the younger players.

“Everyone is all together,” she said. “No one looks down on us.”

Stogsdill also talked about the support that has come from above.

“I think what stood out to me the most was just the love I got from the older players,” she said. “I just felt like they were confident in us and they gave us encouragement — and wanted us to play our game with them.”

High point

Are the Eagles “sectional ready?”

“Well, fortunately we do have a month,” head coach Matt Roberts said.

The postseason is when they want to peak, he said.

From the start, Roberts said he believed this team had a lot of potential to grow.

“We have made some tremendous improvement — in practice and on the court,” Roberts said. “I think our biggest issue is just finding a level of consistency.

“There are times when we’ll play extremely well — win or lose, we’ll play extremely well — and then turn around maybe the next game and just play OK,” he said.

Regardless how far they get in the postseason, Edds said she already had her high point. After the team beat Bloomfield 36-32 — a team they lost to last year — Edds broke into tears in the locker room.

“I’d never been so proud of a team,” she said.

“It was really awesome to have all these young girls come and play this first game with me as a senior. I think they gave me their all, and I just love how they all look up to me and respect me,” she said.

“That’s my high point, when they look at me and see a leader in me.”

They may be 2-6 on the season, but they are enjoying each other, and as much as they want to win, they want most of all to get there as a team, Edds said.

“We’re not there yet, but we can’t get any worse. We can only get better,” Edds said. “I’m just excited that the potential this year is the greatest potential I’ve seen.

“This year, I’ve been the most excited to play, because nobody gives up, and that’s what you’ve got to have,” she said.

Girls basketball

Seniors: Ryanne Smith, Vanessa Hoskins, Azhia Morgan, Maddy Edds

Junior: Savannah Lovins

Sophomore: Dasia Wilkerson

Freshmen: Aubrey Hollander, Allison Stogsdill, Gracie Matlock

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Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.