Thursday, May 25, 2023 | 2 a.m.
Maintaining poise in the toughest moments is a concept almost all coaches preach, but few ever get a chance to demonstrate it as flawlessly as LaShondra Rayford did earlier this year.
Her Las Vegas High team trailed rival Desert Pines by 14 points in the fourth quarter of the 4A state championship game, but she stayed calm, called a timeout and started putting the pieces in place to mount an all-time comeback.
“I was just confident we would get it done,” Rayford said. “I felt like it was right for us. I felt like it was our time.”
Rayford’s feeling proved correct when Wildcats star junior Layla Faught hit two free throws in the final seconds to secure a 51-49 victory. The state championship was the Las Vegas girls basketball program’s first since 1978.
Las Vegas High couldn’t have done it without Rayford’s composure and confidence.
“It was less about me and more about the players,” Rayford said. “They are such amazing kids. They all love each other. This is probably the first time in my career, along with last year, where I’ve had a team, a program, where there are no issues. Not a single one. Not an argument. Not a fight. Not a disagreement. They made it a team.”
• KeJuan Clark, Mojave basketball: Won a second straight 4A state championship with the Rattlers while further establishing his reputation as one of the best young coaches in town.
• Andrew Flynn Shadow Ridge cross country: Guided three runners into the top 20 of the state meet to win the team 5A championship.
• Tyler Marchant, Palo Verde tennis: Led both the boys and girls teams to state championships.
This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.