Thanks to hard work and limitless determination, Elkhart Memorial girls basketball star Brionna Barnett is already a winner. But after having lost at regionals in each of her first three years, she's motivated to get over the hump in her final season.
That determination showed during the sectional final last week, when Barnett, holding the ball in the final seconds of a tie game, glided left, and pulled up to hit what would end up being the game-winning shot.
"We've been running that play all year long and I had confidence that she would read it right and she absolutely read it right," said head coach Steve Scott. "She drove, you had the defense backed up, she pulled up, got herself on balance and nailed it.
"It's just awesome because for one, the team has earned it. For two, [Barnett has] definitely earned it with all the hard work she's put in over the years, and for three, it beats the heck out of losing," he added.
Losing in sectionals, of course, is something to which the Chargers are not accustomed. They've reached regionals that last nine seasons. During that run, they've advanced past that point zero times. And while it may be easy for Memorial to grow accustomed to falling short, Barnett remembers that feeling.
She never wants it again.
"It was bad," she said. "The bus home, real quiet. It was just not fun."
If there's any player capable of getting the Crimson Chargers over the hump, Scott says it's Barnett. "She's the type of player that you always dream about coaching," he said. "Brionna's all about basketball. She's been playing since she was a little kid. She totally gets everything."
At times when her peers may be at the mall or the beach, Barnett is in the gym. She is the first to arrive at practice and, you guessed it, the last to leave--staying late to practice her shot. She constantly speaks of improving.
"You think about all the hard work you put in in the summer when kids are out doing other stuff, having fun and you're in the gym," she said, "you can really show how hard you work during basketball [season] and how much you love it."
While the upcoming regional contests are her primary focus--and certainly a tall order--Barnett has a bright future no matter what. She will play at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay next year, an endeavor in which Scott has no doubt she'll succeed.
"I think she's got a great future," he said. "They have a great coach there. The last time I looked they were ranked seventh in the country. So she's going to a quality program, and that quality program is getting a real quality kid."
But before that happens, Barnett has some unfinished business at Elkhart Memorial: a state championship.
"It would be the best. Especially with it being my senior year. It would just be great."