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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4, 2007
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Drake leaves with good memories of Hartselle career

By Mark Edwards
medwards@decaturdaily.com 340-2461

HARTSELLE — Lauren Drake's competitive basketball career ended the morning of March 2 when she and her Hartselle High teammates fell in the Final Four.

She plans to attend Auburn this fall, and if she plays, it will be strictly for recreation, which makes that Final Four loss to eventual state champion Ramsay her last time to put on a basketball uniform.

"I've been told I might regret not playing," Drake said. "We'll see."

But if she keeps her promise and doesn't play collegiately, she ended her career in a way few athletes do.

A 5-foot-10 forward, she started 124 games in four years at Hartselle. The Lady Tigers won 92 games in that span, and Drake was at the forefront of teams that went to the Northwest Regional her sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

She scored 1,733 career points and averaged 13.8 points a game this season. She pulled down 1,199 career rebounds and averaged 9.5 a game this season.

She made 304 career steals and averaged 2.9 a game this season. During her senior year, she had 19 games in which she scored and rebounded in double figures.

She paced her team to a 28-7 record this year, the Northwest Regional championship and a spot in the Class 5A Final Four.

The Alabama Sports Writers Association named her first-team all-state, and The Daily is naming her its 4A-6A girls player of the year — the first Hartselle player to win the award since Jeaniece Slater in 1988.

For Drake, it's hard to top all of that — especially earning a spot in the Final Four alongside teammates she had known and played beside almost her whole life. That's what made the season special for her.

"It meant a whole lot to get to the Final Four," Drake said. "It wasn't just about one game — it was about working four years for something and finally getting there."

Even in defeat, Drake had one of her best games. She had 16 points, 11 rebounds and two steals in the 44-31 loss to Ramsay, which won its fourth straight state title the next day.

"I'm still proud of what we did," she said.

Her coach at Hartselle, Greg Adams, said it's typical of Drake to put the team and its goals first.

"Her thoughts always were about the team and how something would affect the team," Adams said. "Her thoughts never were about herself. If we made a change or did something different, she thought about how it would affect the team."

When it ended, she never expected to make the all-state team. In fact, she didn't know until the Sunday when the squad was released publicly. Adams called her to give her the news.

"I was shocked," she said. "It's a really big honor."

Adams said her value extended beyond her statistics.

"She is an unbelievable leader," Adams said. "She took care of a lot things with our team, and because she did, I didn't need to take care of them. In some cases, I didn't know about them because she took care of them."

For now, Drake will focus on school. She's an academic star, too, posting a 4.14 grade point average. That ranks fifth out of a class of 179 at Hartselle.

She said she is ready to leave competitive basketball behind. Maybe it's because she and her teammates accomplished so much this season.

"I'm pretty happy with my decision," she said.

Class 4A-6A girls all-area team

First team

Lauren Drake, Hartselle

Keona Shoulders, Athens

Andrea Crawford, Brewer

Paige Hood,East Lawrence

MaryVirginia Reeves,Hartselle

Second team

CourtneyMedlen, Athens

CourtneyScott, Brewer

Sallie Beth Burch, Lawrence County

Nakia McDaniel,Lawrence County

Danielle Jefferson,East Limestone

Third team

LaKendra Wright,East Lawrence

Jazmine Powers, Austin

Jessica Andrews, Hartselle

Shea Mason, Lawrence County

EmilyBrackeen,East Limestone

Player of year:Ricky Allen, Brewer

Coach of year:Lauren Drake, Hartselle

Class 4A-6A girls honorable mention

Ardmore: Shannon Fogg and Jennifer Mills.

Athens: Sierra Caudle, Jenae Strong and LeCreshia Horton.

Austin: Nikkia Jordan, Chasity Stover and China McDaniel.

Brewer: Meagan Hormel, Morgan Crawley and Emily Dabbs.

Decatur: Ashley Henderson, Whitney Fletcher and Brittany McCloud.

East Lawrence: Paris Davis.

Hartselle: Jessi Smith and Anna Reeves.

East Limestone: Ebony McCrary and Shenika Harris.

Priceville: Abbie Harris and Keila Hamlin.

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