It’s nothing new for Bearden’s girls basketball program to rely on a McLaughlin to provide a spark at point guard.
But what is new is the growing role of sophomore Zneyah McLaughlin, who is the younger sister of senior Shekinah McLaughlin and Bearden alumna Jai Jai McLaughlin. In recent games, the Lady Bulldogs have looked to Zneyah to step up as another key guard and fill a scoring role.
“We knew her ball handling was going to be something that would help us,” head Coach Justin Underwood said. “I think the scoring has just been a nice bonus.”
McLaughlin has had a major impact on the team’s success and has opened up opportunities for her teammates.
“She is a very unselfish type player, but she has such a quick first step, so she has done a really great job of attacking defenses which has opened things up for Annaka (Hall) on the perimeter as well as Jakhyia (Davis) on the block,” Coach Underwood said.
Shekinah McLaughlin has been a role model for her younger sister and for the team as a whole this season.
“Shekinah is our heartbeat,” Coach Underwood said. “Her energy and her enthusiasm that she brings really leads us and loosens things up for the girls on the floor.
“When Shekinah’s feeling good and playing hard, good things happen.”
Shekinah knows the best way to lead is by her example, so she makes sure she is always at her best at practice and during games.
“I just try to lead by example,” she said. “In practice, we are supposed to talk all the time so I try to lead by example and show that there are a lot of things we cannot do without communication.”
The McLaughlin sisters appreciate the unique opportunity they have to play on the same team together.
“Being out there with my little sister is a great thing to do because I love my little sister and we love playing together,” Shekinah said. “A lot of people don’t get to experience playing the same sport as their sibling and don’t get to experience that camaraderie.”
Both Shekinah and Zneyah McLaughlin are following in the footsteps of their eldest sister Jai Jai, who starred both in Bearden’s program and for Carson Newman.
Jai Jai still stays involved in the Lady Bulldogs’ season and continues guiding her younger sisters in their development as players.
“After a game, she always tells me exactly what she thinks about the game and she doesn’t hold back,” Shekinah said. “It’s good to have someone to tell you where you’ve done good, but also what I’ve done wrong.”
The McLaughlin sisters have had immeasurable impact on the Lady Bulldogs’ success over the years and will continue to have an impact for years to come.