Game-day attire on the Greenbrier girl's basketball team varies from player to player.
Along with the standard white basketball jersey and shorts at home games or the green uniforms on the road, the Lady Wolfpack's three starting guards, Michelle Swiec, Sara Oland and Brooke Jackson, always slip on their knee pads for protection from slides and dives on the court. Starting forwards Dorian Freeman and Tiffany Blackburn usually wear some type of headband to keep the hair out of their eyes.
There is one thing every Greenbrier girl wears out on the court for each game. It's the eye black, a 2-inch strip of black face paint worn under each eye that stripes the face of the Lady Wolfpack players. Though it's typically reserved for outdoor sports where the black face paint reduces glare from the sun, Greenbrier coach Garrett Black said the eye black has been a tradition on the girls basketball court for the past three years.
"It started in 2004, the year we won state in softball," said Blackburn, who also coaches softball at Greenbrier. "We hit a stretch where I felt we weren't giving all we needed to give. We kept preaching heart and soul, and this was one step further."
The eye black tails up on one side of the face, which stands for "heart," and down on the other side, which stands for "soul."
"It worked for us in softball and reminds us of what we're playing for," said Greenbrier softball and basketball player Tiffany Blackburn. "It's important that every single player puts it in. It symbolizes team unity."
That 2004 softball team bought into the idea and finished the season with the school's first softball state championship. With that kind of result, Black said, he wasn't about to give up on the motivational eye black when basketball season started.
"I started to figure out that we were a team that needed a full-court effort from everyone," Black said. "So we started it in basketball too, and we've done it ever since. We designate someone on the team to go out and buy it, and the girls help each other put it on in the locker room before the game."
When the Greenbrier girls hit the court for pregame warm ups, the eye black serves as an intimidating reminder that each Lady Wolfpack player will give her heart and soul during the game. So far it's worked. Greenbrier entered the week undefeated at 9-0, including two wins last weekend over Lakeside and Aquinas.
With faces highlighted in eye black, 10 different Greenbrier girls scored in a 60-24 win over Lakeside. Junior Sara Oland, who scored 15 points in the victory, said she likes what the eye black stands for, but it has its downside, too.
"It gets on everything. You look down, and it's all over your jersey and on your hands," Oland said. "It kind of works, though. I think it looks scary."
Despite the mess and its pimple-producing tendencies that some of the girls complain about, the eye black has been a huge hit. Since the tradition started, the girls basketball team has reached at least the second round of the state playoffs including last season's run to the state semifinals. This year, Greenbrier entered the week ranked No. 5 in the Class AAAA coaches poll.
"We use that as motivation," Black said. "We know that we're going to get everybody's best when they play us."
The Lady Wolfpack will next face Cross Creek Saturday in a rematch that's been one year in the making. After last year's 11-0 start, Greenbrier's dropped its first game of the season to Cross Creek.
This year, the contest will start at 5 p.m. at Greenbrier.
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