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'Miles' of fight in Lady Hatchets as they respond to coach's cancer

Feb. 23—There is no word that shakes people to the core like cancer. It is a word that can affect anyone of any age, and the struggle is as personal and varied as the people who get it. There seems to be no rhyme or reason, and the randomness is mind-boggling. There are some people who get diagnosed that causes an entire community to scratch its collective head and just ask 'Why?'

One such person is veteran Lady Hatchet basketball coach Gretchen Miles.

She is one of the few people who is regarded as an icon in this community, not just because of accomplishments on the court as a player and a coach, but because of her impact on people in the classroom and community. To see Miles anywhere is to see smiles on people faces when they are in her presence.

Now that her season is over, she wants to thank everyone who has supported her, the program and team over the last six months. She recently completed her final radiation treatments and said things look good right now.

Early this fall, she made her cancer diagnosis public. Those who know her, know that she notoriously shuns the spotlight and deflects praise on to others. This situation was no different and she wanted to keep the focus on her team and upcoming season.

"When I first found out the news, it was very important for me to have the team hear it from me and no one else. I knew probably a month and a half before telling anyone because it was important to me to have a plan in place before moving forward," said Miles.

"We told the team right before fall break, and how there is a plan, and like every bump in the road, we will keep getting up and putting one foot in front of the other and fight. I didn't know what the season was going to hold as far as appointments, or how I would feel, so again, we needed a plan. That is when the staff agreed that we wanted to put people in place to help out just in case I couldn't be around as much because there were a lot of unknowns. I told the girls I had an open-door policy and the girls could come in and talk about it at anytime if they had questions."

Assistant coach Kasey Frette talked about the team's response not only to hearing the news, but their response.

"After the first meeting with a team, it only took about five minutes before they were ready to do whatever they could. They were ready to print t-shirts and start the DCH Team Together fund, along with raising money for the Tom and Phyliss Miles scholarship fund," said Frette.

The DCH fund is designed to help women who are battling cancer.

"The team handled it really well. I think they took their cue from the leadership. Gretchen is always proactive during adversity and they knew it was time to lean on each other, right away it was 'Steer the course and get back to work,' " said Frette.

"We were really upset. We hated to hear what we heard, but we knew this season had a bigger purpose than for ourselves, and we played for her that was for sure," said one of the two captains, senior Hayleigh Cummins, speaking for the players.

"I think we learned about life. I feel like we learned how its how it's not about the small things. It's more about the bigger things and this season had a bigger reason than just for this season, it was about helping coach get through what she was going through. We were the family that was right behind her and on the trail with her."

The team had a very successful season, winning more than 20 games and added a sectional title and as always, differed to those around her. Miles was quick to give credit to her staff for stepping up to help, in spite of also becoming the all-time winningest Lady Hatchet coach during the season.

"Kelly Garland was a great hire for us, he understands kids, high sports IQ, winning attitude, and works tirelessly to make sure we are prepared and getting better every day. Coach John Howell helped out a ton with our scouting. He has such an amazing basketball mind. He not only made us a better team, but better coaches. His passion for kids and the game is off the charts and we were very fortunate to have him make us better. Of course, Dave Harman, Brittany Chestnut, and Kacey Frette have been with me for a while and their dedication and passion for this game and our kids is something you will not find anywhere else. They are my family."

Miles looks at hard times as an opportunity to grow and improve and Frette believed it showed all year.

"Our kids had to grow up during the season and the way they handled led to a lot of mature conversations. They learned how to stay calm in the face of adversity," said Frette.

Miles added that her team showed themselves to be fighters all year.

"This team had to handle hard things all season, from long injuries to playing just two JV quarters for most of the first half of the season and they just kept fighting. Nothing successful happens easily. We talk about how every day is 'Separation Day.' There are eight billion people in the world and what are you doing in every aspect of your life to separate yourself from the competition, in the classroom, on the court, and in life? These kids are resilient, they are fighters, they are compassionate, they are winners. Every day was a challenge, whether it was on the court or in life and the girls attacked that challenge head-on every day," said Miles.

Frette believes that Miles as a person is what really was on display during this challenging time.

"She is a mentor, a friend, a big sister and an aunt to so many who come in contact with her, just like in any family and she wants you to hold yourself accountable. She is never satisfied and wants to push people to be their best," added Frette.

The 2023-24 team shared a sectional title, but they share more than that, they got to share giving back to someone who has done that same thing for a very long time.