The Male High School girlsâ€™ basketball team has not reached the state tournament in 19 years. Itâ€™s as if their bark had been put on mute for almost two decades. They had struggled during this time; not having beat schools like Manual and Assumption in about 10 years. Then came along Coach Champ Ligon, Jr. In his second season coaching the Lady Bulldogs, he has revamped the program, leading them to over 45 wins in two seasons and to the state tournament. As the Seventh Region Coach of the Year, he takes no credit for himself.
â€œWell I think the credit goes to the young ladies. Weâ€™ve given them a system, a frame work to work within and allow their talents to blossom. They were really starving for success, so it was an easy sell when I took over the job. Weâ€™ve been able to accomplish so much, and itâ€™s really just because the young ladies willingness to work hard, and work on their skills to improve and play together. We really have a very tight knit team.â€
Coach Ligon has been coaching for over 20 years. Ironically, prior to coaching at Male he coached at the schoolâ€™s historic rival, DuPont Manual High School under coach Jimmy Just for the boys team. Since leaving and going to Male, Ligon has had 20-win seasons both years. This season, the Lady Bulldogs are district champions and regional champions. Coach Ligon talked about the teamâ€™s progression this year.
â€œItâ€™s been a two year process from when I started. I was blessed with some talented young ladies. Some good athletes who were really raw basketball wise, and as their fundamentals got better, weâ€™ve gotten better and better. Weâ€™ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of incoming freshmen step in and really play at a high level. It gives us a deep athletic team with some good size, and itâ€™s really been a progression, and it has slowly but surely led to a lot of success.â€
19The team is well-balanced with many sophomores and juniors returning to the team next year. In an effort to cultivate an even strongerÂ program for the future, Coach Ligon says that recruiting will be the key. Male has been able to get some talented players from the middle school level, which in turn has led to their successes as a unit. To keep the long term success, he and his coaching staff will continue to build good relationships with middle schools, such as Jefferson County Traditional Middle School and Barret Traditional Middle School.
Coach Ligon described his team as, â€œKiller whales. Theyâ€™re beautiful, but theyâ€™ll bite your head off in a second if you donâ€™t treat them right.â€ But on the court he says, â€œTheyâ€™re going to play all out for 32 minutes, and if you can handle that then you have a chance to be successful. If you canâ€™t handle that, then youâ€™re going to struggle. So weâ€™re going to come at you, start to finish.â€
The Lady Bulldogs play together as a team. Coach Ligon says they all enjoy one another and with their depth, they resemble the University of Kentucky. Players have been able to put pride aside and not worry about playing time, he says. â€œWe have a lot of depth, so people have to give up some playing time, but for the good of the team. We have so many players that can play at a high level; weâ€™re able to wear teams down. We also have good size on the inside, [so we] pound the ball inside and wear teams out.â€
Male will remain a powerhouse in Louisville high school basketball for years to come. They live under the message: â€˜Just try.â€™ Effort counts for everything for the Lady Bulldogs. Coach Ligon tells his players, â€œEveryday you need to try and bring your best. Everyday youâ€™re proving yourself, and weâ€™ve constantly preached about working hard and being focused.â€ This message has hit home for this program. The Lady Bulldogs have gotten their bark back, and will look to eat away at the competition in seasons to come. VT