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Published: Thursday, 3/10/2005

Waite girls finish long climb to top of City

As time expired on Waite's monumental 53-52 City League girls basketball playoff upset of eight-time defending champion Central Catholic on Feb. 9, Indians coach Manny May was fairly calm considering the magnitude of the victory.

"Actually, my wife [Christina] was more excited than I was," May said. "I was calm because I knew there was still more work to do. I didn't want to get too hyped."

May still had to prepare for the CL championship game against Notre Dame.

Three days later, Waite did make its upset of the Irish meaningful, taking a 41-35 win over Notre Dame. Seniors Lakina Cleveland and Shonika Knowles, juniors Tatyana McNeal and Briana Washington, and sophomores Shareese Ulis and Anedria Allen, all key in the title run, celebrated on their home court with the rest of their team.

It was the first CL basketball championship for the Waite girls, and the school's first league hoops title since the boys shared the crown with Central and Woodward in 1953. The best Waite's girls had managed previously was a title-game loss to Scott in 1983, and an appearance in the playoff semifinals in 1992.

For his achievement in building Waite (15-5) into the first public-school girls team to win a CL playoff championship since Macomber-Whitney in 1991, May is the 2005 Blade girls coach of the year.

"To put everything into perspective, I didn't even know there was all this history on their backs until this year," said May, whose record at Waite is 47-89. "The girls program at Waite has been down for many years.

"I look back to seven years ago, when I came to the interview process. I said, 'We're going to win now.' They looked at me and started laughing. They said, 'We like this energetic young coach.'

"It took seven years to get to this point, but it's gratifying. It's been a joy seeing the kids grow each year by leaps and bounds. These kinds of players can uplift your spirits in practice. To have all 11 players come to practice every day and not miss a day - that's been the fun part."

On Dec. 16, 1998, the fourth game of May's as Waite coach, his team absorbed a humiliating 120-13 defeat at Central. It was one of 18 losses that season against a lone 51-49 win over Bowsher.

There would be other huge losses that year and in the few that followed, including a 100-25 loss to Central in season No. 2.

"I try to forget those years," said May.

Next came records of 4-15, 5-14 and 5-14. Two years ago, the Indians were just 6-13.

May is an ordained minister who practices that vocation at the nondenominational End Times Christian Fellowship on Auburn Avenue. May's other job is with Toledo Public Schools.

Based at Spring Elementary, he works as a community school partner, a liaison between TPS and its school children. One task is visiting the homes and families of kids who are not coming to school. "Coaching basketball has always been a passion of mine," he said, "even when I was in high school. I started coaching girls [CYO] basketball at St. Angela Hall when I was 18.

"I enjoyed coaching them so much. I never wanted to coach boys. I enjoy the fundamentals of the game, and the girls wanted to catch on to that. The boys are all into the high-rise, Michael Jordan stuff."



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