A Tale of Two Teammates: ‘TIMEOUT’ with North Lamar Pantherettes sophomore guards Maddie Walters and Cydnie Malone
Basketball is a game of runs and is fast-paced all around. The speed of the game is not something that intimidates North Lamar Pantherettes sophomore guards Maddie Walters and Cydnie Malone. Instead, they relish the tough competition on the varsity level.
Love at first swish
From a young age, Maddie began to soak in the action both as a spectator and a competitor on the hardwood. Right from the opening tip, basketball was a sport that stole Maddie’s heart and still has it today.
“I grew up watching basketball and started playing at a young age. I was three years old, so basketball has always been a very strong love of mine,” Maddie said. “I can still remember my mom taking me to a high school girls game. I had this strong desire to jump out there with them. I loved how everyone was talking and working together. I knew basketball was the thing for me. You could say it was love at first sight.”
When Cydnie was younger, she tried her luck in various sports, but something about the orange ball and laced-up sneakers resonated with her.
“When I was younger, I was able to try all the sports I was interested in and basketball was one the ones that stuck with me,” Cydnie said. “It’s been my favorite sport since then.”
Years of experience with continuous improvement along the way
With a dozen years of experience under her belt, Maddie not only fell in love with basketball but also grew arguably an even stronger work ethic with the game. Maddie has continuously used basketball as a tool to better herself on and off the court while striving for numerous goals.
“It’s been 12 years since I started playing. I believe my hard work and dedication to put in extra work has helped me improve tremendously,” Maddie said. “I’m the type of person that will stay on one skill until I get it right. I have also had a lot of guidance over the years from family members and coaches. I love being pushed because it motivates me to be a better basketball player.”
Cydnie also possesses years of experience, but she has not seen her game come together and be as complete as it has been until this past summer.
“I have played since fourth grade. I have done a lot of practicing over those years, but this summer is when I really started putting the work in to be the basketball player I want to be,” Cydnie said. “I just stay consistent and work hard every time I workout or train for basketball. I also trust my coaches and stay coachable because I know I still have a lot to improve on.”
A Pantherettes team that has both physical and mental strength
Maddie and Cydnie have helped guide her North Lamar squad to an impressive 9-1 start to the season, including wins over Caddo Mills, Prairiland, Quinlan Ford, and Chisum. In order to execute and ultimately string together multiple wins, the diligence of body and mind are required. Also, both star sophomore guards know that in order to be a true champion, one must be willing and able to contribute in any way possible through thick and thin.
“It takes a fierce mindset in all areas to be a strong contributor on a team with this much talent. Might I also add, because of our level of talent, I must be willing to contribute in different ways each game,” Maddie said. “Sometimes it’s either scoring, distributing the ball, playing a strong defensive game, or some games it’s simply cheering my teammates on. My teammates depend on me to do my best, and it pushes me to be whatever our team needs to be successful.”
Even though the wins did not come as much as she wanted, Cydnie is still grateful for her freshman year knowing that the program’s strong foundation was cemented.
“We didn’t win as much as we wanted to last year, and we got beat by some pretty good teams which was frustrating,” Cydnie said. “We all love this game so much and wanted to win. Although we lost a lot, I wouldn’t change anything about how last season went because we learned a lot and realized we had to go up another level. Now, we understand what it’s going to take to reach our goals and make it deep in the playoffs this year. We are all determined to put in the work and this one of the reasons we are off to such a good start this year. I personally have grown a lot from last season and have set goals for myself to make sure I am contributing enough each game to get us another win. I have definitely been pushed when we play harder teams. I have learned to push through in games when my shots weren’t falling or if I was just having an off game.”
A bond more seamless than their fastbreak
Winning nine games in its first 10 tries is not an easy task for any basketball team. However, the Pantherettes’ togetherness on the court and their strong bonds with one another off the hardwood have made the talented Pantherettes even more cohesive, especially on defense.
“I love being a part of this team because our team chemistry is so amazing. It’s fun being around each other on and off the court. We are a family,” Maddie said. “Being around each other all of the time makes communication easy, and communication is the most important aspect of having a strong defense. We might not always communicate verbally as our coaches want, but we are so in sync we can react as one unit. Our speed also helps us tremendously on defense. Everyone on the team has a high work ethic, and that’s why we are so special.”
“We are all really close with each other and know that we can count on each other no matter what, which I think ties into games situations such as defense,” Cydnie said. “We know that during the game we can trust each other to give it our all and hustle every play because we all want one thing which is to win. I think what makes us a special group is that we are all on the same page. It is a lot of fun to play with a group of girls who all are determined to get the job done and lift each other up throughout the game. Even though we can get frustrated with each other sometimes, we always move past it pretty quickly and focus on what really matters.”
North Lamar is effectively at the top of the power rankings in Lamar County girls basketball to this point. The Pantherette players are aiming to make the most of their opportunities regardless of the uncertainty that COVID-19 provides.
Girl power in full bloom
An aspect of Maddie and Cydnie’s focus is the opportunity to be treated fairly and equally. Even though gender equality in sports should be seen as common sense, both guards are grateful to see that they are finally getting their due, which has been earned through plenty of hard work.
“I think we are starting to get the respect we deserve. Opportunities are exciting but there is still room for growth,” Maddie said. “Being a young girl with big dreams and being able to see other women in sports excel is inspiring to me and gives me hope that maybe one day soon I can achieve my goals in sports.”
“I think as more women have begun to break barriers, we have gained more respect,” Cydnie said. “Seeing the increased opportunities for women’s sports gives me something to look forward to and strive for. Women who value themselves and are determined to work hard for what they want inspiring me to never settle in or outside of sports.”
Battling hateful negativity with wisdom and poise
Even though the insults and disrespect have been cast down by the Pantherettes, Maddie has unfortunately faced inequality on other fronts. When facing No. 2 Lindale in the Bi-District Round of this year’s volleyball playoffs, the young sophomore athlete handled racial inequality with maturity, class, and wisdom. Even though it was an unpleasant experience, Maddie kept a level head and sought counsel afterward, which is something she hopes other young girls like her can do while continuing to combat the issue and raise awareness of it.
“This year during volleyball season, we had a playoff game and it was a very intense game. During the third set, I was on the far side by the other team’s student section crowd,” Maddie said. “Out of the blue, I heard one of the people in the stands make a not-so-kind remark towards me. It was clear the remark was racially motivated, and it made me sad, but I couldn’t do anything at that time. I needed to stay focused on the game. After the game, I went to my mom to tell her what happened. She, a family friend, and my coaches addressed it. It felt great to know that people do have my back and are willing to support me during something like that. The world needs more people willing to stand against things that are wrong.”
Prayers, practice, and people — major mental-health keys for these Pantherettes
Not only a hooper, but Maddie is also an avid SUDOKU player to her own admission. When she is feeling stressed and isn’t attempting to solve number patterns on a paper grid, Maddie goes to her one true happy place for recovery. During tough times, Maddie seeks refuge and peace of mind on the court or with her family members.
“My happy place is going somewhere to play basketball or spending time with my family. I also like reading the bible in times of stress or turmoil,” Maddie said. “All of these things give me peace and remind me to be thankful and think of all the good things I have in my life.”
Just as Maddie takes her problems to the cross, Cydnie does as well. Whenever she is feeling low, Cydnie looks to the Lord to fill her cup once more, which has had a highly positive impact on her approach and mindset within the game and in life.
“When I am stressed about school or a mentally draining situation, I like to put on worship music,” Cydnie said. “Worship is my go-to when I’m cleaning, getting ready for school, doing schoolwork, before basketball games, etc. It really just gives me peace and takes a lot of the stress away because it helps me remember that no matter how crazy things are God is in control, which is a very comforting thing to know.”
A God who can take away your problems and point you towards the winning basket
Cydnie said she can’t recount too many bizarre moments during her playing days aside from a time an unfriendly opponent during a game in Roxton claimed that Cydnie smelled like onions. Even though she refutes this claim, Cydnie said it is a running joke to this day. Furthermore, on the topic of food, Cydnie confessed she is partial to only one type of frosting, specially made by a friend of hers.
Although she has not been embarrassed too many times, Cydnie has felt humility through powerful experiences and opportunities with her Christian faith.
“Every year, I get asked to speak a short message at a Christian event and I love doing it!” Cydnie said. “This year, I spoke at the Field of Faith event, and I had worked very hard on my message and was very excited to share it. Once the event was over, I had a few people come up to me to tell me that my message was just what they needed to hear and how it encouraged them. It really meant a lot to me that I was able to help people through speaking a message that God had laid on my heart, and it was very humbling to know that I could influence people’s mindsets in a positive way by speaking the word of God.”
A slippery slope
As for Maddie, she not only recalls her blessings in life, but she also remembers some comical moments from her past. She has not just had an eye on the basket her entire life. When she was younger, Maddie had her sights set on a boy for too long and, since she had tunnel vision with her eyes, her friends ensured that she ended up on the ice.
“Okay, I was in middle school and it was my best friend’s birthday. Me, her, and another friend went ice skating. I thought I was so cute,” Maddie said. “There happened to be a really cute boy also skating and, while I was staring at him, my friends clotheslined me and I fell right on my back. I was so embarrassed. I just wanted to go home.”
The Pantherettes look to secure their 10th win of the season at 11 a.m. Saturday at home against Caddo Mills, who North Lamar defeated 46-42 on the road to start the season. For the latest local news, click here. For more sports coverage, click here.