Big game, big dreams, big faith

Alyssa Howie, left, looks for a teammate as Anderson County’s Rachel Satterly defends during a game on Jan. 10.

Spencer County’s Alyssa Howie seeks to share Christ in all she does

By John Herndon,

TAYLORSVILLE — It can be easy to underestimate Alyssa Howie’s impact when she steps on the basketball court.

Watching her warm up with the Spencer County Lady Bears, it’s easy to look elsewhere in searching for the team’s difference maker. Unless, of course, you follow those textbook jump shots as they swish through the net.

As her team is introduced before a spirited home crowd, she’s one of the smallest players on the floor. When asked later about those publications that list her around 5-foot-6, she laughs and admits she is 5-3.

But trying to find someone with a bigger game isn’t easy.

Meet the top girls’ basketball player in the Eighth Region, according to the preseason poll of coaches for The Cats’ Pause, and a six-year starter trying to lead her team back to the Eighth Region Tournament.

Alyssa Howie races up the floor against Anderson County’s Sophie Smith. (All photos by John Herndon)

Basketball is big, very big for her. But life is much bigger, whether it involves helping others now to the mission trip she has planned for next summer to her college choice and career plans.

People around the Eighth Region began to learn about Alyssa in the 2013-14 season. A seventh-grader, she was thrust into Spencer’s starting lineup by then-coach David Marion.

You read that correctly. Alyssa Howie is now a six-year starter.

“Looking back on it now that I am a senior, it really is special,” Alyssa says. “Back when I was that little seventh-grader, it was all I knew. I came out of middle school ball. The coach put me in the starting lineup and I just tried to accept the challenge and tried to do it to the best of my ability.”

Alyssa’s dad, current Spencer head coach John Howie, was coaching the Spencer County Middle School team at the time. “Coach Marion was so good to her,” he says. “He protected her from a situation that could have dampened her spirits or gotten her frustrated.”

The Lady Bears took their lumps. They won seven games that year. Among their 22 losses was a wipeout by top-ranked Anderson County, a 30th District foe. “It was 70-8,” John Howie smiles.

Alyssa Howie tries to get a shot off against Anderson County’s Tiffani Riley.

Teaming with a strong class one year older than Howie, Spencer improved to win 8 and 11 games the next two years before a breakthrough in 2017. Spencer swept district foes Shelby County and Collins, then rallied from nine points down to defeat Collins again in the district tournament to earn a regional berth, Spencer’s first since 2009.

Last season, Spencer won 20 games for the first time since 2001-2002 and advanced to the region again but that strong class graduated. The rebuilding process starts with the senior point guard.

They have been six eye-opening years. While deferring to upperclassmen in the past, Howie says she learned to become a “quiet leader…. As a senior I am like I have these girls on my back and we are going for it. I want to do everything I can to become a role model and try to lead them. Leadership is the biggest thing I have learned throughout six years.”

It was apparent in a contest with Anderson County on Jan. 10. Despite scoring only seven points, Howie got others involved before Anderson pulled away for a 52-32 win. “That is something I really try to focus on because getting that extra pass or making the shot, it just gets our team going. That is the key. You have to have that momentum. You have to have that confidence.”

With just over a month to go in Alyssa Howie’s high school basketball career. As of Jan. 10, she had put up 2,172 points and dished out 627 assists, both school records. She had also snared 611 rebounds.

Alyssa Howie directs her team against Anderson County.

Most importantly, the Lady Bears look as if they could be a tough out in the district and regional tournaments. Alyssa looks to a December win at South Oldham as the time when Spencer became a force.

“At South Oldham, everywhere I went, I had someone in front of me and on either side of me,” Alyssa remembers. “That was a big game where we grew up as a team because we saw what other people could do. We won that game but we were losing until the very end. That was the turning point.”

It has been an interesting final year. Not only did four starters graduate from last season, but just before fall practice began, Brandy Scott, who had been leading the Spencer program the last four seasons, stepped down as coach for another position in the school system. John Howie, who had been an assistant coach, stepped in.

“It’s been awesome!” Alyssa smiles. “It’s so weird that he is my coach the last year before college….It has been very special. I know that looking back, we will enjoy this year.”

John admits to being unsure of how coaching his daughter would workout. “I coached her in middle school and I was very hard on her and sometimes blamed her,” he says. “When I was upset with another player, I would get on her.  I did that some tonight, too. But in middle school, I took her for granted. She was always my point guard. She always handled the ball. I loved her and thought she was a great player, but I didn’t know how special she was.

“When other teams tried to get us rattled, she stayed calm. I took that for granted. When I got this opportunity, I said, ‘I am not going to take her for granted.’”

Alyssa Howie and her dad, John, are enjoying the opportunity to work together during her senior year at Spencer County High School. He says she will return to be next to him on the bench when she graduates from Kentucky Christian University.

One thing Alyssa is not taking for granted is an opportunity to play college basketball. While she is ranked as the Eighth Region’s top player, Howie’s size has limited her college opportunities. But Kentucky Christian University noticed while Alyssa was playing AAU ball with Kentucky Premier last summer. She fell in love with KCU, committed to the Knights in the fall and will sign with the school in February.

“It’s the place where I felt comfortable,” she says. “I wanted to go to a Christian school. That is very important to me. That’s who I am and that’s what I wanted. That is what I want to spend a lot of my early adulthood doing, being grounded in my faith. I wanted to be part of a team too.”

“I was very fortunate to go to some schools and take some tours,” Alyssa says, “but KCU, when I talked with Coach (Lisa) Conn, it was like an instant comfort that I can’t really even explain.”

Alyssa says basketball was important but that academics, chapel services and the ability to go on mission trips were big on the list of what she was looking for. “It is the perfect fit for me in all aspects,” she says.

But before heading to Grayson, Alyssa plans to visit Ghana on a Fellowship of Christian Athletes mission trip next summer. “We will be able to share the love of Christ, while we are over there,” she smiles. “I am very excited about it.”

It’s what Alyssa tries to do naturally .

“I don’t know where I would be today without it,” she says of her walk with Christ. “We have talked about the positive aspects of starting as a seventh-grader, but there were some tough moments throughout this process. We have had some ups and downs in seasons for sure.

“I don’t know how people go through trials in life without Christ. I was raised in a Christian home and I am very thankful for that because I don’t know where I would be today without Him and without the hope He gives. When I have a bad game, yeah, I accept this. It’s a game.

“When I am on the court, I can’t talk Bible verses, but through my actions I can be encouraging others through sportsmanship. It’s important to me that these relationships I have built, they get to see me who I am and not just on the court.”

The plan is to return to Spencer County upon graduation. “She will be gone four years, then will be sitting beside me on the bench,” John Howie says with a big smile.

Alyssa says that volunteering in the Spencer County Youth Service Center has created a spark to her career path. “It has opened my eyes to our community and just how blessed personally I am. It has really opened my eyes, this program, and I definitely want to come back here to Spencer County and be in education. My long term goal is to be in the youth service center.”

“Something I have learned through these past six years is that I can show Christ’s love through a basketball game. It doesn’t have to be throwing a Bible in someone’s face or singing a song. It’s just showing Christ in what I am doing.”

It’s a big game on the court, but it’s even bigger in life.

Alyssa Howie looks for a teammate against the Anderson County defense on Jan. 10.


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