The Crying Game Has Ended

By Stephen A. Norris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 18, 2007

After every basketball game Alexis Campbell played in sixth grade, she would sit on the bench trying to mask her sobbing with deep breaths.

She told her coach she had asthma, but the truth was that Campbell couldn't stand losing, and the first basketball team she was on went winless.

"I got cut from the travel team and played on the team where your parents pay for you to play, but no one really cared about winning," said Campbell, now a junior on the Broad Run basketball team. "I would sit there crying after every game and couldn't figure out why no one else was."

Campbell doesn't cry much these days. Broad Run (17-5) recently wrapped up its third consecutive regular season district title (the Spartans were co-champions with Loudoun County in 2005-06) and clinched a home game in the first round of the Region II tournament against Fluvanna on Wednesday. Campbell, a 5-foot-8 guard, has been the key component to the Spartans' success this season.

The team had two starters back from 2005-06 and graduated Whitney Vlasic, the all-time leading scorer at the school. Campbell was forced to switch from her natural position as a forward to point guard. Despite struggling to adjust in the beginning, she has flourished and is enjoying her best season yet, having just been voted Dulles District player of the year after averaging 14.4 points per game.

"She's basically our go-to player," Broad Run Coach Mike O'Hara said. "She is our number one option on offense and is usually covering their best player on defense."

Campbell's dissatisfaction with failing continued into middle school and high school. She said that when she would make mistakes she got frustrated to the point that it would take her mentally out of the game, forcing her coach to take her out. Campbell has worked on not letting her mistakes dictate her game -- it's been a big part of her maturity as a player.

"She has come a long way since then," O'Hara said. "Whenever I see her start to get down I say, 'You don't want to go back to how you were in middle school, do you?' "

The fear of failure has at times pushed Campbell to be a better player, though. Since the seventh grade, Campbell has played basketball year-round, and before this season began, Campbell -- knowing she would be entrusted with the point guard duties -- worked on her left hand so much, she said, her right hand became weaker.

That work is beginning to pay off more than Campbell expected: She has developed a strong crossover move, allowing her to drive to the hoop just as hard with either hand, and she recently posted season highs of 25 and 34 points, respectively, in back-to-back victories over Loudoun County and Park View to close out the regular season. The wins assured the Spartans of the outright district title.

"There were some bumps in the road at first," O'Hara said. "There were times when we wanted her to make the extra pass or to take a shot, but throughout the course of the season she has adjusted well."

Perhaps nothing helps Campbell adjust better than a consistent dosage of winning.

"A lot of people doubted us because we have a young team and lost some really good players" from last season, Campbell said. "We don't have a huge team. We have a guard-oriented team, but we work together through our weaknesses."

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