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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER Sara Bershers

SPRINGDALE -- The biggest adjustment Sara Bershers said she had to make upon her arrival to Fort Smith Northside last season wasn't about the transition to a new coach and a new style of play.

It was about the number of players that were in the gymnasium during a Lady Bears' practice session.



SCHOOL Fort Smith Northside

CLASS Senior



NOTABLE Moved to Northside for her junior season after playing her sophomore year at Lake Hamilton. … Earned all-state honors after she averaged a team-high 13.8 points per game for a Lady Bears team that finished 26-4 and tied with North Little Rock and Conway for the 7A-Central Conference title. … Has a younger sister, Tracey, who was one of two Lady Bears to play considerable time last season. … Verbally committed to Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

"We now have 15 girls in practice, where at Lake Hamilton we had 10," Bershers said. "Those extra five players really help when you're scrimmaging and going through drills and stuff.

"With every school, there's always going to be something different. Thankfully, I've played for enough coaches and the transition was easier than some might have expected. Coach (Rickey) Smith does a great job, and I like what he does."

Bershers made the transition with ease and became the leader on a Lady Bears team that finished 26-4 and finished in a three-way tie with North Little Rock and Conway for the 7A-Central Conference regular-season title. She averaged a team-high 13.8 points per game for a team that had two freshmen -- her younger sister Tracey and Jersey Wolfenbarger -- play a considerable amount of minutes.

Because of Northside's youth, Smith admitted the expectations he had for the elder Bershers were so much more and she was held to a higher standard than others. Although she was listed as a 6-foot forward, she played multiple positions and even brought the ball down the floor like a guard when asked.

"In all my years of coaching, I'm not sure I've had a better person," Smith said. "No matter what the situation, the only response I would get from her was either 'yes sir' or 'no sir.' Whatever I asked her to do, she did it. I'm very blessed and lucky to coach a kid like that."

Smith said Bershers' defining moment last season came during a Feb. 16 home game against North Little Rock. She banked in a shot at the buzzer to give Northside 45-43 victory over the eventual state champion, but it was what she did in the final moments before that bucket took place that stands out in Smith's mind.

"They trapped Sara near midcourt and ripped her, then headed for a layup," Smith said. "At that moment, Sara ran as fast as she could and blocked the shot, then brought the ball down. Where other players might have dropped their heads for having that happen, she made up for that mistake."

Bershers said the second time around in Northside's program makes her more relaxed since she knows what to expect and play her game. Smith calls her style of play "old-school" because of her mental toughness and how she manages to be around the basketball most of the time.

During the off-season, Bershers said she spent much of her time trying to improve her defensive game.

"I don't play the best defense," she said. "I believe you can always improve on something, and defense is the main thing I can improve on this season."

She's already taken a step toward the future. She recently made a verbal commitment to Texas-Rio Grande Valley, choosing the NCAA Division I school in Edinburg over Arkansas State and defending Division II national champion Central Missouri.

"I think that school is getting a steal with Sara," Smith said. "I do believe her better days are still ahead of her, and this is fantastic for her."

Preps Sports on 11/04/2018

Print Headline: CLASS 6A Bershers makes transition to Northside an easy one

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