Madison Central’s Bailee Vanover was involved in plenty of big-time rival showdowns with Madison Southern in the past four years.
The teams met in the championship game of the 44th District Tournament three-straight times.
Those battles were intense.
In just a few months, however, Vanover is set to join forces with some of the players she once fought so hard against.
The Madison Central senior signed a national letter of intent last month to play basketball at Berea College.
The Lady Mountaineers have three Madison Southern graduates on their roster — Briana Lanham, Marley Lawson and Savannah Fallis.
“We are not rivals anymore,” Vanover said. “We are teammates. I’ve been talking to them and I’m really excited to get to play with them because I know how good they are. It will be fun.”
Vanover is very familiar with her new teammates.
Central and Southern met in 44th District Tournament in each of the past four seasons.
The Lady Eagles won a semifinal showdown in 2015 and went on to take the championship.
The Lady Indians claimed district titles in 2016, 2017 and 2018 — beating Southern in the finals each time.
“Now, we are trying to win championships together,” Vanover said of her new teammates.
Vanover took over the Central’s starting point guard mid-way through her freshman season and went on to score more than 1,000 career points.
“We handed her the keys and she basically ran things for three and half years,” Central coach Robbie Cooksey said of Vanover.
As a junior, Vanover averaged 11.7 points and helped the Lady Indians win 24 points and advance to the semifinals of the 11th Region Tournament.
She had a tremendous senior season.
The 5-foot-5 point guard led Central in scoring (12.9 points a game), free throw percentage, assists and steals and was second on the team in rebounding (7.2 boards a game).
Vanover was named to the All-11th Region Team, which is selected by the coaches.
“She really did everything for us,” Cooksey said of Vanover. “She was our best defender. She’s just really smart.”
Vanover didn’t think sure wanted to play basketball in college, but changed her mind after she started getting interest from Berea College and Georgetown College.
“I went on a visit (to Berea) and watched one of their games,” Vanover said. “It was just like home. I’m so glad that’s where I’m going.”
The Lady Mountaineers (23-4) are coming off one of the best seasons in program history.
In its first year in the USA South Conference, Berea College won the Western Division regular-season championship and advanced to the league’s tournament title game.
The Lady Mountaineers fell to Piedmont College in the championship.
Lanham averaged 15.6 points a game during her sophomore season. Lawson and Fallis combined to average 7.0 points a game in their freshman seasons.
“The (Berea) basketball program is top-notch and they have really been doing well,” Vanover said.
The Lady Mountaineers had just two seniors on roster last season. Starting point guard Adriana Williams graduated, which could give Vanover an opportunity to jump into the line-up.
“I think she has really good chance to go in there and play right away,” Cooksey said.