Leaving her legacy
“She’s the greatest Beatrice girls basketball player of all time.”
That was the quote used by Beatrice Coach Dennis Coudeyras about Michaela Jones after the team’s loss in the state tournament -- which ended Jones’ high school playing career.
It was a bold statement, but a claim in which the numbers overwhelmingly back it up. Jones was a four year starter and broke 12 school records during that time.
It was an unbelievable career that almost didn’t happen because Jones’ love of basketball didn’t come until fourth grade.
“I really didn’t like basketball very much when I was in third grade and wanted to quit,” Jones said. “My mom made me go out for basketball one more year and I played on a spirit league team and really enjoyed it. So fourth grade is really when I fell in love with basketball.”
Coaches and the entire community of Beatrice is thankful that Jones’ mom talked her into that one more year.
She would go on to score the most points in a career (1,533) and a season (512); most rebounds in a career (762), season (265) and game (21) and most free throws in a game (20), season (153) and career (412).
Jones also broke school records for the most consecutive free throws made (21) and the most field goals in a game (16), season (169) and career (510). She came up just two points shy of breaking the single game scoring record.
Coudeyras said those records speak for themselves when discussing where Jones ranks in Lady O basketball history.
“I don’t think anybody can really argue that she’s not the greatest Beatrice player of all time,” Coudeyras said. “Not with numbers and records like that.”
Jones said she is humbled by her coach’s remarks and is proud of what she was able to accomplish at Beatrice, but she’s also disappointed that she was unable to accomplish her ultimate goal.
“We didn’t get a state championship,” Jones said. “That was disappointing. That was always the ultimate goal and while I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish, it’s disappointing that we were unable to win state and get that big picture of us on the wall in the (high school) common’s area.”
The Lady O did make a good run at a state championship. After starting the 2017-18 season 7-7, the Lady O rallied to win seven of their next eight games. They pulled off an upset over Waverly to reach state and then knocked off top-seeded Sidney in the first round of state.
The magical run came to an end in the semifinals when they fell to the pesky South Sioux City Cardinals, a conference rival who has been a thorn in Beatrice’s side for many years.
It was a disappointing finish, but Jones said the team has a lot to be proud of.
“I’m very proud of the girls for the resilience they displayed throughout the mid to late season,” Jones said. “We really bought in as a team and played smarter and making the semifinals was special for our team. I’m thankful that the girls kept believing when many didn’t believe. Those were memories I’ll cherish forever.”
Coudeyras said in his long coaching career, he’s never had a player work harder than Jones. -- boy or girl.
“She put more time into her game than anybody I’ve ever coached,” Coudeyras said. “It was just amazing. She would come in before school to shoot, she would stay late after practice and shoot and she would shoot at home. You had to eventually kick her out of the gym.”
Coudeyras said Jones is the type of player who would trade all of her records for a state championship.
“She never ever talked about records,” Coudeyras said. “She never mentioned them. She was a very team oriented player who would play any position for us. I can’t remember her ever having a bad practice or a bad attitude.”
Jones will continue her basketball career at Northern Colorado, a Division I program.
One of the big reasons for choosing Northern Colorado was their coaching staff -- which includes a head coach that was an Olympic Gold Medalist and All-American at Texas as well as an assistant coach that played professionally.
“It’s just a program that has a set culture and expectation of winning,” Jones said. “I knew that was the place. I’m thankful God has gotten me there and now it’s time to maximize my potential and be the best for the team.”
Jones is also looking forward to playing on a bigger stage in front of more fans, but admits she will miss Beatrice High School’s Ozone.
“The Ozone is just a special place when it’s packed and it’s an exciting game,” Jones said. “The student section, the band, it’s just a pretty good feeling you have when your playing there and it’s a tight game.”
While Jones’ career at Beatrice is over, Coudeyras said her contributions to the program will never be forgotten. She has blazed a path for future Lady O players.
“Obviously, when you have all the records, you will remembered for that -- but I’ll remember her for a lot of the little stuff,” Coudeyras said. “She would send letters to young girls encouraging them and I just never ever heard her say an unkind word to anybody. She was a special player and a special person and we were lucky to have her playing for Beatrice.”