Lamar attained lots of success at SouthridgeJune 1, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
If somebody wanted to get hold of Brittany (Neuman) Lamar while she attended Southridge, she wasn’t a hard person to find.
All that person had to do was go to a volleyball game, or a basketball game, or track meet or tennis match. Maybe she’d be at a baseball game as a team manager if that person still wasn’t having any luck.
Chances are, she’d be found at a practice or a sporting event, and Lamar, who grew up on a farm, found a way to balance it all.
“We saw how you work hard and you earn what you get, so it was expected,” Lamar said. “We didn’t really have to prioritize. We knew what we had to get done, and we just had to figure out how to do it. So, I think those are skills that I still use in life, and sports definitely helped do that.”
She came from an athletic family. Father Russell was her coach in AAU basketball, which she started playing when she was in fifth grade, and she holds her father in very high regard as a coach. Her sister, Ashley, pushed her in the weight room, played basketball against each other in one-on-one and ran sprints together.
Ashley was a senior when Brittany was a freshman, and the two helped Southridge win a sectional championship in 2002.
“That’s probably my favorite memory of all sports, just being around her,” Brittany said. “She’s pretty sharp. So, she kind of knew how to talk to people, how to lead and she was vital on our team that year. So, she kind of took me under her wing, and if somebody needed to tell me something, she was doing it.”
Brittany may revere her father, but she also wanted to beat him. Russell coached in different sports at Tecumseh, including as the head volleyball coach. She went up against her father, and Dad would win every time.
“We were competitors,” she said. “We always wanted to beat him, me and my sister both, and we never did.”
The Raiders played Class 2A No. 1 Southwestern in the 2002 regional tournament, and Brittany helped keep the game close when she made a free throw when time expired in the first half to put Southridge down by five. However, 20 turnovers helped the Rebels widen the gap in the second half, and they eliminated the Raiders, 67-51.
Brittany helped Southridge finish 20-4 and win its first Pocket Athletic Conference championship since 1989 and first sectional title since the state championship season of 1998. Another one would follow the very next year during her sophomore season in 2003.
The Raiders had a balanced attack going into that sectional. Four players averaged double figures in the regular season. Senior Rachelle Durcholz averaged 14.5 points per game, while Brittany averaged 10.7. Senior Leigh Butke chipped in 10.4 per game, and sophomore Emily Meyer averaged 10.1 points.
“I played basketball with Emily through grade school — we both went to Holland,” Brittany said. “I remember in lunch, we’d get ketchup bottles and salt shakers and we’d go over the plays, so we could remember them for the game.”
Brittany played center, and made a habit of getting rebounds and blocks. Perhaps the biggest of her high school career came in the sectional semifinal against host Forest Park. The Raiders and Rangers were tied, 32-32, when Forest Park’s Emily Miller went under the basket and Brittany blocked her shot out of bounds.
Meyer then tipped and stole the ball off a Forest Park inbounds pass. She found Katelyn Cochren, who fired a buzzer-beating jump shot to send the Raiders into the sectional championship with a 34-32 win against the Rangers. Southridge survived a 50-41 game against Tell City for its second straight sectional championship.
However, Southridge girls are still waiting for their first regional championship since that magical 1998 season. The Raiders began the 2002-03 season with a 61-53 loss to Evansville Mater Dei, and ended the season in the regional with a 58-49 loss to Mater Dei. Brittany had five points and 14 rebounds in the regional loss.
She remembered the first game against Mater Dei when the Wildcats spread the floor, kicked the ball up and had an offense that sped up the game.
“They just kind of played a style that we just had never seen before,” she said. “We made some adjustments, it just wasn’t enough in our regional.”
Brittany had a senior year to remember at Southridge. The Raiders entered 2004 not having won a volleyball sectional championship since 1988, and then-new coach Mande Keusch looked to be the one to change all of that. She was the junior varsity coach the four prior years, and brought a different style.
Keusch often coached games while wearing atypical attire — donning T-shirts and sweatpants that season in lieu of a customary buttoned-collared shirt and cargo pants.
Regardless of what she wore, she coached Southridge to success, and Brittany lauded how Keusch tried to unify them. She saw the crazy outfits as a means of trying to motivate the team.
“She put herself out there and showed us that she’d do anything for us,” Brittany said. “So, it’s hard not to play hard for somebody like that.”
If the Raiders finally wanted to conquer those sectional demons, however, they’d have to be the ones to deny Forest Park a sixth straight sectional championship. Brittany thought the Rangers had a culture with a lot of players that worked hard, and a whole squad of players doing that will take the team places.
This time, though, Southridge reigned supreme, taking the match, 3-1. Brittany did her part with 32 kills to help the Raiders win the championship. It was the third time that season she set a school record for single-match kills.
“Volleyball’s definitely a whole team sport,” she said. “So, it takes everybody top to bottom. I just happened to be the person who was swinging at them that day.”
However, Southridge is still waiting for its first regional championship in volleyball, and would’ve had to have gotten past some tough teams to have done so in 2004. The Raiders lost to Class 2A No. 3 Cascade, who then lost in the regional championship to No. 2 Brownstown Central.
The Raiders may not have won a set in their match against Cascade, but they led at one point in all three sets, including most of the first set. Brittany noted how badly the team wanted to win, which would’ve led to them playing anybody close, but she still thinks about that game a lot.
“I think that we had the talent to do more,” Brittany said. “I’m pretty competitive. So, I just kind of wished that we had known what we were up against.”
The success she saw as a senior didn’t end there, though. Greg Werner took over the basketball team and was in the first year of his first stint in 2004-05, and it took a while until he got his first loss as the new coach. Southridge began the season 22-0.
The Raiders also found a way to win even when not every game was a runaway. They won 10 of their 22 games, including each of the first four, by single digits that year. Brittany thought coaching, along with a desire to win, made them tough to beat. They never talked about their run. They simply showed up to win and played to win.
Their lone loss that season came in the sectional championship against Forest Park. The Rangers pulled off a 44-40 upset, and Brittany fouled out in that game.
“We had a good group,” she said. “I don’t think that if I don’t foul out, we win. I think I should’ve been smarter, and I remember my fifth foul was in the middle of the floor going for a jump ball, and that’s just silly, but we had a great group of girls. Forest Park just beat us that year, that game.”
She signed her letter of intent to continue her basketball career at the University of Southern Indiana. Brittany turned down an offer to play volleyball at Georgetown College (Ky.). She thought she was probably a better volleyball player than she was a basketball player, but she was closer to family, and basketball was where her heart was.
“I still remember the first time my dad put on a basketball game and we watched it together,” Brittany said. “He had a IU game on the TV, and I remember sitting on the floor and watching it with him, and he’d tell me, ‘Here’s what this guy is doing. This is why he’s doing it,’ and, ‘You see that move? This is why it works,’ and, ‘Oh, he should’ve done that.’ We still kind of sit there and that’s how we watch games as we kind of analyze, and it’s enjoyable to me. It’s something that we really bonded over growing up.”
Things were rigorous for her at USI, as she’d wake up at 5 a.m., train, go to class, then practice, then study day after day. But she wanted to be there just like everybody else, knowing that she’d have to work harder than ever before.
She sat behind other players her first three years of college. Brittany got playing time, but she came off the bench in most of her years at USI. Then, she broke out in a big way as a senior, starting 24 of the 27 games she played in, and averaged 10.6 points per game.
Basketball has remained a part of her life all these years later. Brittany completed her first season as the girls freshmen coach at Southridge in 2019-20. She remembers being at a football game last year to watch her cousin, Conner Oxley, when Werner ran into her and asked his former player if she was able to take the position, which she accepted.
“Coach Werner, my senior year, aside from my dad because I’m a little biased there, he’s the best coach I’ve ever had,” she said. “Now being on his coaching staff and seeing the way the model works, he is a great coach, and he was easy to play for.”
For her, it’s not so much about the players who score a lot of points, but those who show up, work hard and make the team better. A player doesn’t have to score 20 points in a game. If somebody is blocking out, rebounding and setting screens, Brittany can’t afford to take them out. She enjoys that her players work hard, and that they have fun doing it.
She’s been keeping in touch with her incoming freshmen by talking on Zoom as COVID-19 continues, and they get their workouts off the internet. Brittany added Werner has been very serious about keeping people safe throughout all of this.
Brittany herself knows this, as she is a registered nurse. She is a transport nurse in the newborn intensive care unit at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent in Evansville.
“I know people are tired of hearing that we’re in it together, but it really takes that,” Brittany said. “It’s everybody making the right choices, doing the right things for the greater good.”
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