Special talents come along every so often. The Archer High Lady Tigers basketball program currently has two gems helping them rise fast on the basketball scene. Madison and Autumn Newby are those gems. This year, the teenage sisters (born 18 months apart) led the program to its first-ever state championship game – and in only Archer High’s fifth season. The outcome wasn’t what either wanted, but their performances (combining for 41 of Archer’s 62 points) put everyone on notice that the Archer High Lady Tigers will be a threat next season. And the Newby sisters will be its cornerstones.
Archer has been successful winning state championships in softball and wrestling in recent years. And the football team recently won its first-ever playoff game. That success has pushed the Newbys to want a piece of the championship pie for the girls’ basketball team.
“All the other teams were always getting the parades and pep rallies, so we wanted basketball to get something. We wanted to see how everyone responded to us making to it to the championship,” Madison said.
While there was no championship parade this year, people began to take notice after the squad clinched a spot in the title game. The “late notice” did not sit well with Autumn. “People began to hop on our bandwagon, but we were asking where they were before we were in the state championship,” she said. With one title game under their belt, the Newbys will continue the hard work and sacrifice to try to make another strong run this year.
“We practice two hours each day during the season, and train at least twice a week regardless,” Autumn said. “In 8th grade I was a big scorer and did everything, [so] coming in as a freshman it wasn’t very hard to fit in with everyone else. I’m versatile, so I was able to spread out my game with points, rebounds and assists. As a team we were not selfish.”
Madison, the older of the two, helped Archer win three playoff games before her sister joined the team. She had more of an adjustment to high school than Autumn. “My role changed from scorer to being a true point guard. It was different for me, but I accepted my role. We worked as a team, we worked really hard and we all had one goal,” Madison (now a junior) said. “I don’t really care about how many points a game I get – I just care about the bigger picture of winning. I just want to make the basketball play to help us win.”
Although clearly the “headline” players, the girls still struggle in acknowledging the depth of their accomplishments this past season. Head coach Ryan Lesniak informed Autumn that she was the leading scorer and rebounder, while noting that Madison was the team leader in assists. Both were surprised at their stats. “Really?…What?” Autumn said, as a joyous Madison uttered “Yeaaah boy!”
“We’re like a “power team” – we bring positive energy, uplift our team and we make people around us better,” Madison stated about her and Autumn’s influence on the team.
Prior to this past season, Autumn made the 2017 ESPNW Hoop Gurlz recruiting watch list. She finished the season averaging 12.7 points per game, 8.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 2.6 blocked shots. Meanwhile, Madison finished with 10.6 points per game, 2.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.4 steals. She has committed to Georgia State University. Both made the Gwinnett Daily Post All-County first-team, while Lesniak was named its Girls Coach of the Year.
“[Coach Lesniak] is a father figure. He pushes us to be better, but he doesn’t do it in a negative way,” Madison said about her coach. Autumn felt much the same way, and noted, “He’s calm, lets you work through your mistakes. He’ll tell you where you’re wrong and help you not do it the next time.”
Outside of hoops, the Newbys enjoy lots of the same things most teenagers do, but they do have differing interests. They do not differ, however, on their appreciation of the support of their parents, coaches and community. Their father, Vance, is a former high school basketball player and constantly is helping them improve their skills. Their mother, Peaches, keeps the girls’ focus on the positive, no matter the outcome of any particular game.
With the dedication of their parents, coaches, and the Archer community, the Newby sisters may prove unstoppable in their quest to take the Archer High Lady Tigers to new heights in the 2014-15 season. And along the way, Madison’s and Autumn’s spirit, drive, and will to win will make the ride fun.
They would have it no other way.
photos courtesy of Sonny Kennedy, www.sonnykennedyphotography.com