Throughout the years, numerous individual players, coaches, officials and other personalities have been inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
To have an entire program inducted, however, implies a vast greatness that spans over many individuals over such a period of time. It may be a greater honor than any other.
The MSHOF bestowed that honor upon Marshfield Lady Jays girls basketball when it inducted the entire program in at its basketball luncheon on Wednesday, Dec. 11, at the University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center in Springfield.
Marshfield girls hoops were honored alongside the Nixa Eagles Boys Basketball Program, Lincoln High School and Missouri Southern State University standout Anita Oplotnik, New Haven basketball head coach Ray Steinhoff and special legend Charlie Spoonhour.
MSHOF President and Executive Director Jerald J. Andrews introduced a heartwarming video that walked attendees –– among them, over 50 former or current Lady Jays –– through the years of the program’s storied successes.
Former head coach Scott Ballard (1981-1990), who now presides over the women’s basketball program at Winona State University, said in the video, “It was unbelievable how many young girls in the community started to play basketball with a desire to be some player on the team.”
It’s understandable why considering the sustained success the program enjoyed under Ballard and its caretakers that followed. Established in 1975, Marshfield did not reach double-digit wins in its first seven seasons, but after that the Lady Jays quickly rose to become a dominant force in the stratosphere of girls basketball in the Show-Me State. Beginning in 1986-87, they posted consecutive 20-win seasons for 16 years, one of the longest streaks in MSHSAA history.
Throughout that time, the Lady Jays reached unprecedented heights. Their 12 trips to the Final Four have produced seven state championships (1988-91, 1996-97, 1999), tied for second-most in state history.
Undoubtedly, the high point of the program and one of its lasting memories will be its 102-game winning streak that began on Nov. 23, 1987, and lasted until Dec. 15, 1990, a state record that stood until recently when broken by Strafford.
“It was awesome to be able to relive a lot of memories and the success that the program has had,” said former Lady Jays star Melody Howard, who was part of those teams and already inducted in 2015 as part of the Missouri State University Lady Bears' 1992 Final Four team. “And not only just the girls that are honored, but for me it’s an honor to the whole town of Marshfield. When we played in the late eighties, early nineties, the gyms were packed.”
Coach Gary Murphy continued Marshfield’s dominance that began under Ballard until his tenure ended in 2012, and Shelly Jones added the Lady Jays’ most recent Final Four in 2014. Altogether, Marshfield’s all-time record entering this winter was a superb 825-396, good for a winning percentage of .676.
Former assistant coach Debby Long gave a heartfelt speech at the luncheon ceremony on behalf of the Lady Jays and accepted the plaque on behalf of the program from Andrews. After its conclusion, the hoopers and coaches gathered on-stage for a picture to conclude an unforgettable afternoon.