McWhorter earns region coach of the year honors

Published 5:30 am Friday, February 15, 2019

Lincoln County’s 2018-19 season has been special.

And that’s down to a special group of players, head coach Cassandra McWhorter said.

McWhorter is the 12th Region girls basketball coach of the year, sharing honors with Danville’s Judie Mason, for leading the Patriots to another 20-win season and the top seed in the 45th District tournament.

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“I’ve been really proud of our team and the fight that they’ve had,” McWhorter said. “We’ve had some hiccups but the focus and regrouping we’ve had after those, to get ready to go into battle again, it’s a testament to them. I think it really started at the end of the year last year with their focus and their determination. Learning how to gameplan, learning how to play certain teams certain ways, depending on who you’re playing what you might do. But that schedule can’t do anything but help prepare you.”

The Patriots’ first hiccups came on back-to-back games in December: Lincoln lost to Christian Academy-Louisville at Franklin County, then lost to Highlands in the first round of the Tradition Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic.

After those two games, Lincoln went on a 13-game win streak, including a tournament title in the Toyota Classic, where the Patriots beat No. 1 Scott County on the Cardinals’ home court.

“There’s definitely been some disappointment after some of the losses we’ve had this season, but what has impressed me most about this group is that they’ve taken ownership,” McWhorter said. “From coaching staff to the players, we’re able to talk and communicate. They’ve played together so long, they know how to read each other and they can talk things out and then let it go, prepare the next day for the next game. They make my job easy. Coach of the year comes because of them, I don’t go play.”

McWhorter’s style of coaching, according to 12th Region Player of the Year Emma King: She cares.

“She’s been a huge asset for me and has helped me accomplish all that I have this year. I am really grateful because she’s done so much, especially with the Miss Basketball candidacy, I really couldn’t have done this without her,” King said. “Just all the time that she’s put in outside of practices, to be able to get me to where she knows I can be, I’m really grateful for that. She’s just done so much, she truly cares about us more than I’ve ever known a coach to. That means a lot for us, and I think that’s another reason why our team chemistry is so good, she’s basically a mom to all of us.”

And that’s the atmosphere that McWhorter says she wanted to create as head coach.

“When I got to finish college basketball and had the opportunity to come back and coach where you’re from, number one that’s a really special thing,” she said. “I’ve always tried to treat my teams, this is my ninth year as coach, I’ve always tried to treat my players as if they’re my own children. Now that I have two of my own, especially a young daughter that comes up and looks up to them so much, it’s easy to treat them as my own kids and love them as my own.

“I do think that plays a huge part in our chemistry. When student-athletes know that their coach cares about them, not just on the floor, they know I’m in it with them. We’re in this together, this is not my team, this is our team. They’re just a special group. They make my job easy.”

Managing expectations has played a part in McWhorter’s job this season in particular: The Patriots have a five-star class of five seniors who have won 94 games in their four years at the high school.

“Those high expectations, the pressure they put on themselves is great because they do know what they’re capable of,” the coach said. “The hardest thing for me as a coach is just making sure our chemistry is what it needs to be, that we are preparing in the way that we need to for what’s ahead, just making sure we’re all on the same page.”