Margate Middle School Lady Spartans basketball team captures 2016 divisional title
Margate Middle School girl’s basketball team reeled of eight straight regular season victories on its way to being division champions in 2016. Pictured, l to r: Ernest Toliver- Principal, Cynthia Pierre-Louis, Vashti Thomas, Auriyanna Howard, Tatyanna Wyche, Taliyah Wyche, Norray Richards, Leliani Thursingham, Roderick Daniel, assistant principal, and Lila Benbow, head coach; kneeling: Sierra Grosvenor and Zanarra Newport. Not shown Assistant Coach Sonya Elijah.
By Charles Moseley
Margate Middle School head girl’s basketball Coach Lila Benbow must have thought that her team was in for a long season after a big defeat at the hands of Pompano Beach Middle School in their regular season opener. However, fortunately for her Lady Spartans, it’s not where you start that counts; it’s where you finish.
The Lady Spartans wound up with a record of 9-1, capturing the regular season divisional title. They earned a spot in the playoffs, winning their first round match-up against the Nova Lady Titans before losing to the Dillard Lady Panthers in the second round, one game away for an opportunity to avenge their first game defeat by playing Pompano Beach Middle School.
Coach Benbow employed a philosophy of zero tolerance resulting of pairing down her team to nine players who bought into her system, opting for a team based on quality as opposed to quantity. Apparently her decision paid off in dividends when her squad made a complete 180 degree turn, proving any initial skeptics who may have felt otherwise wrong, in method of building a winning formula.
“When I initially accepted the position for the Lady Spartans at Margate Middle School, I knew the girl’s basketball program was going to need some work. I met with the principal (Ernest Toliver) 6 years ago a explained my plan and system for the girl’s basketball team. It’s not all about how many baskets a player can make; it’s how well the player learns and executes on and off the court.”
“Then I surrounded myself with good people who shared the same coaching philosophy and passion: Patricia Wilson, Jeremy Thursingham and Bennett Wyche. We all agreed it’s not all about how many baskets a player can make; its how well the player learns and executes on and off the court. I knew that success would not happen overnight…. but through diligence, faith, parental involvement and the administrative staff at Margate Middle,” Coach Benbow added.
Margate Principal Ernest Toliver is one of the Lady Spartans’ biggest fans and a firm believer that extracurricular activities help develop character, and that team sports help students become better-rounded individuals.
“I strongly support extracurricular activities for our students. It helps them understand the importance of teamwork, discipline, and character building which will prepare them to become productive citizens down the road.”
“Whether it is through our mentoring, band, debate or other programs at Margate Middle, we afford students a number of extracurricular activities and urge our students to participate,” added Toliver.
Under Coach Benbow the Lady Spartans compiled an impressive record over the last several years as four-time divisional runners- up and 2 time divisional champions, going undefeated in their division.
Coach Benbow singled out two of her players whom she felt best represented the true meaning of what it means to be a “student-athlete. Leilani Thursingham, the team’s point guard, averaged 12 points a game while maintaining a 4.0 average for three years in a row as a Lady Spartan. Power forward/center Tatyana Wyche came to Margate Middle at the start of seventh grade, becoming the team’s leading rebounder and shot blocker for two consecutive years and has maintained a 3.4 while playing basketball.
Each player reflected on what they enjoyed most about playing for the Lady Spartans this season.
“The best thing I liked this year was playing for Coach Lila. I also like playing at Margate Middle because my teammates were like my second family,” said Wyche.
“We prayed before every game. We were built on God. I liked being able to play point guard as well as shooting guard. We had great chemistry within the team. I liked playing for Coach Bennett, Coach Jeremy, and Coach Lila,” added Thursingham.