VALLEY SPRINGS — When comparing names of privates schools in Arkansas, basketball fans will see that there are very few repeats over the years.
When looking at the Valley Springs Lady Tiger basketball roster, it doesn't take long to find repeating names. As the Lady Tigers enter the Class 3A State Basketball Tournament finals on Friday in Hot Springs, five of the 11 team members are little sisters of former Lady Tigers.
This is something that has benefited the team.
Bethany Richardson took advantage of playing with her sister.
"I never got to play with her in a game, but every chance I got to shoot with her and her team in practice I was all in," she said. "Something I learned was that going to Hot Springs is every little girls dream for high school basketball. I was that little girl on the sideline when my sister played there."
Richardson's sister Tristan was on the last team to play for a state title for Valley Springs in 2016.
This marks Valley Springs seventh trip to the state finals in 12 years.
Cayley Patrick also spent time playing against her sister.
"I never got to play with my sister (Hayley) as a Lady Tigers, but I played lots of one-on-one with her," she said. "I learned how to play defense where she couldn't get by me."
There were two players that got to be on the same team as their sister. Maura Moore and Chloe Avery each on the team with their sisters.
"I played with my sister, Madison, growing up on travel teams throughout the summers," started Moore. "But I started playing with her in school ball when I got moved up onto the junior high team my seventh-grade year while she was a ninth-grader.
"I also got to play with Madison my tenth grade year while she was a senior," continued Moore. “I learned many things from Madison, while watching her play and playing with her. I learned how to be a team leader. How to take control and how to play some lock down defense. I'm so grateful I got to play with her and to look up to her from a young age."
Avery had fond memories as well.
"She was an awesome teammate to me and our teammates," she said of her sister Alyssa. "She was always encouraging me and was positive on and off the court."
Avery was pleased to have the opportunity to be on the court with her sister.
"I loved that I could be on the court with her for her senior year," stated Avery. "I loved to be able to practice and play with her as my teammate for the last possible year."
Being the little sister meant spending a lot of time in the gym when not playing on the court.
"I don't remember a time when I wasn't in the gym," said Haylie Fry, who is the little sister of Sydney. "I've played with the same travel team since third grade and once school ball started for me, I've basically played basketball year round."
Moore has had a lot of memories about growing up in the Tiger Lair.
"I loved everything about getting to go watch the Lady Tigers from an early age," she said. "I loved getting to watch the big girls while being in the student section or even if I was having to sit with my mom and dad. I loved getting to go to the concession stand and get food before the game started. Popcorn and chesee was the bomb back then. Every memory I have as a young girl from the gym at VS is a good one."
Following in the footsteps of a big sister is tough. Patrick likes getting a trip to Hot Springs.
"Seeing them make it to the state finals three years in a row and now it is crazy to think I'm not in the stands anymore cheering on my sis," said Patrick. "She is in the standing cheering on me."
The Valley Springs Lady Tigers have a combined grade point average of 3.7. The Lady Tigers are about basketball and academics as well.
"When I think about the Valley Springs tradition, I think about the academics and basketball," said Fry. "Hard work and excellence is expected in both the classroom and on the court. Another thing that comes to mind is our extremely loyal fan base. They love us and they love us big."
The love of basketball is passed down by family members. Avery learned to love basketball more after watching her sister.
"Yes, she has helped me love basketball," said Avery. "She has helped me become a better teammate and more confident as a player and a person."
There can be jealousy between siblings, but in the Richardson household there is not any.
"My sister is beyond happy for me," said Richardson. “She's always watching my games whether it be in person or on the live stream. She is always cheering me on telling me how proud she is of my team and me."
Going into the game in Hot Springs, the big sisters were quick to give advice to the little sisters.
"My sister told me that it was her favorite memory of high school basketball and to take in every moment of it," stated Richardson. "Her best advice was to relax and play the game I love no matter what happens."
Patrick got advice from her sister.
"She has always told me to play every game like it's my last cause when it actually is your last," she said. “You will be wishing you would have taken that extra step."
Experience is a big thing for the Fry family.
"My sister's teams have made three trip to the state finals," started Fry. "She's mentioned the bright lights and how hard it is going to be shooting on the goals. She also advised me to block out all the noise and just focus on my game."
Moore also received advice from her sister.
"She gives me advice, more than I want sometimes," said Moore. “She tells me all sort of things. I usually get a text before the important games telling me all the stuff I need to do to win. She says things like 'don't do stupid fouls; make every possession count; don't give up; use your legs when you start missing shots; be confident and take it to the hole; get people in foul trouble; shoot the ball and then next time head fake and go to the rim.'"
Even with all of the tips, Moore finished with saying, "I am happy I have a sister that wants me to do great."
Tradition doesn't graduate. Five Valley Springs little sisters are making sure of that.