February 9, 2007--Posted at 6:35 p.m. CST
NAYLOR, MO--Following an announcement by the Missouri State High School Activities Association, the Naylor School District is required to forfeit all softball and basketball games from last season for what MSHSAA is calling transfer, resident and student eligibility rules. In addition, the school will not be allowed to participate in the district or state tournament this year.
Statistically the Naylor School District is the poorest in the state or Missouri. In addition, they are the smallest school in their conference, having half the students of the next smallest school. For years the school has been the game schools have marked on their calendar as an easy win. But the last two years have been different with the Lady Eagles winning their first ever state playoff game last year.
However, because of sanctions from the MSHSAA there will be no postseason this year and Friday's Ozark Foothills Tournament Championship game will be one of their last chances to prove they are the real champions.
"This is the game. Tonight is the night that we come out and play the hardest we ever played," said senior guard Alicia Dragon.
For Dragon, the team's captain, Friday's conference tournament game is one she has practiced her whole life for.
"It's the championship game and probably, since we don't play in districts, the biggest game of the season because you win it you are number one. We were seeded number one, we want to be number one," said Dragon.
Despite being the number one seed, the Lady Eagles will be staying home for this year's playoffs after the MSHSAA penalized the school for alleged violations involving transfer students.
"They have taken away last seasons titles and I just want to know why that wasn't enough, how come you have to take away our chance to play this year?" asked Dragon.
Last season's win in the state playoffs was the first one ever for the Lady Eagles.
The school contends they didn't violate any of these rules; however they are complying with the penalties. Now the small community is left with only memories following last year's memorable season.
"We still know in our hearts that we won it and that is kind of what matters to our team. They may take it down on paper, but in our hearts, we know we won," said Dragon.
With a number of other schools around Missouri committing violations and receiving only minor penalties, Naylor is left wondering why their season will end prematurely.
"I think that a lot of people have lost track of what is important in basketball. Basketball is about going out and having fun. It is about the girls and it is about the team," said Dragon.
The uphill battle continues Friday night for the Lady Eagles. In order to win the conference tournament, they must beat Doniphan, a school that is nearly five times larger than they are.