Eight is not enough: Whitney Young girls shoot for their fourth state title

Whitney Young city title
The Whitney Young Dolphins pose with their eighth straight city title Feb.7.

Aishwarya Kumar Lakshminarayanapuram

The Whitney Young Dolphins’ gym was unusually cheerful last Wednesday, the first day of practice after the team brought home its eighth straight city title Feb. 7.

During the warmups, senior point guard Kiara Lewis and teammate Breanna Beck broke into a quick hip-hop routine to Drake’s “Hotline Bling.”

This was their way of decompressing after a rough regular season, which included unexpected losses to three teams outside of the city, said coach Corry Irvin.

Now, the Dolphins want to book a berth in the state championships March 4-5.

With the Whitney Young nametag comes high expectations, both from fans and coaches, thanks to eight city and three state championships in the past eight years.

“We were like, ‘Oh, no, we already had these losses on us,’ and now with the postseason, that doesn’t matter anymore because now it is just about the games ahead of you,” said junior forward Sloane Kistinger.

But from the laughter, the high-energy conversations and the high-fives, it is clear that the team is ready to start fresh at the playoffs starting Wednesday.

The Dolphins’ free-throw percentage has increased from 30 to 60 percent over the course of the last five games and that, along with getting 50 percent of the offensive rebounds, has improved the players’ confidence and teamwork, said volunteer coach Mac Irvin, Corry Irvin’s husband.

“Overall their team chemistry is our strength right now,” said Corry.

Lewis, who scored 37 points and 10 rebounds in the city championship game, volunteered to stay 45 extra minutes to help her teammates with free throws.

The whole team has stepped up and has delivered in the last five games, said Lewis, who signed with Ohio State last September. “I think it is the best way to finish my senior year.”

The team has peaked at the right time, said Irvin. Seniors Lewis, Isabelle Spingola and Jala Wilson have “gotten everybody on their shoulders.”

“Although the talent level [of last year’s team] was higher than this year’s team, the camaraderie of this team is going to get them farther than last year’s team,” said assistant coach Gary Lewis. “The leadership of [Kiara] has improved tremendously, and the team lets her be the leader and have accepted her, which is going to make all the difference.”

To improve scoring by the guards, forward and center, Irvin is devoting more time to shooting and passing drills and to free throws.

The Dolphins will take on Oak Lawn High School in the first game of the postseason Wednesday at home.

Photo at top: The Whitney Young Dolphins pose with their eighth straight city title Feb.7. (Mac Irvin/WHITNEY YOUNG)