Since her sophomore year, Kelly Funderburk has been a leader. She has been motivating her team since day one, and she and the team have come a long way. It hasn’t necessarily come easy though; she’s had to push herself.
“Outside of the team, I take weight training to help with my strength,” Funderburk said. “I’ve played on multiple AAU teams, and I have a trainer who works me out with skills, which helps a lot.”
During Funderburk’s freshman year, the team was in disarray. They finished with a dismal record of 2-22. Funderburk, still young, skinny and unproven, was a model player off the bench. However, in the coming seasons, she would help to make the difference.
By the 2013-14 season, her sophomore year, the team improved. Funderburk had to become a team leader and was expected to score more points for her team. “Once my sophomore year started, Coach told me that I had to take a big part with the program and step up, and him telling me that, it helped me realize that I need to do that and it came more naturally.”
She averaged 8.3 points per game (stats according to Maxpreps Online), making her the leading scorer for the Lady Pride, though still an underclassmen. The team did improve, this time going 9-14. Funderburk was named to the All-Conference Team for her efforts, as well.
Entering into the 2014-15 season, Funderburk’s junior year, the team saw the departure of Emma Taylor, who had helped carry the scoring load during the previous season. However, two freshmen, Shea Plocharczyk (9.4 points per game) and Allie Moss, helped offensively. Funderburk, of course, led the way, with 13.1 points per game.
“[Funderburk] is a leader,” said Plocharczyck. “She gets us hyped before games. On the court, you feel more comfortable because she’s like a safety net…and off the court she is a good student and will make you feel welcome, especially when you are new to the team.”
Outside of the gym, Funderburk has found ways for the team to bond. “We get along really well for the most part,” explained Funderburk. “We did laser tag earlier this year, and we’ve been together for a while, so we also do team lunches, team sleepovers.”
Also that junior season, Funderburk was named team captain. She once again was the team’s leading scorer and was again awarded All-Conference. The Lady Pride surged their way to a 15-11 record, the first winning record in the many years.
In addition to their high conference standing, the Lady Pride made the playoffs, earning their first playoff win in nine years, beating Scotland County High School. The team was then defeated in the second round. “Making the playoffs was awesome,” said Funderburk. “Women’s basketball hadn’t made the playoffs in a really long time.”
Entering the 2015-16 season, the Lady Pride are still on the rise. The team lost just two seniors in 2015. The entire starting lineup returns, behind the scoring prowess of Funderburk, Moss, and Plocharczyk. However, the team introduces a new head coach, Ben Daniels, who arrives after the departure of coach Hal Wertich.
“I like [Daniels] a lot,” said Funderburk. “He’s a lot different than the last coach, but he has a lot of energy — he’s excited and he expects a lot of us.”
The team has been bonding and preparing for this year. Funderburk reflected: “The progress is great.” This simply described the leaps and bounds that the Lady Pride have made since Funderburk’s freshman year. They have defined improvement over a short period of time.
“From freshman year, I can see that I was a lot like these freshmen.” said Funderburk. “I was good at basketball but wasn’t ready to play at the varsity level, but I grew with the program and got better throughout the years.”
They opened the season with a convincing 42-19 victory against Jack Britt High School, and started 6-0 . However, there are still many games left to be played.
The Lady Pride can accomplish a lot this season. Funderburk stated that “one of our goals is to win the Cap 8, and then make a deep run in the playoffs.”
This won’t be an easy task because Millbrook returns its core from last year’s team and went undefeated in the conference. However, the Lady Pride appear very strong. They worked a lot in the offseason, and have a passionate new coach and a driven player in Funderburk leading the way.