Winning is fun.

And Jessica Holt is having a lot of fun. 

Her Jo Byrns Lady Red Devils currently sit at 16-3 on the season and a perfect 6-0 in District 9-A. 

They are fresh off a 52-point win at Merrol Hyde, where 10 of their 11 dressed varsity players scored a basket. 

That said, winning hasn't always been in the cards for Holt and her team. 

There were some dark days just a few years ago. 

When Holt, who is now in her fifth season as head coach, took over the program, the Lady Red Devils carried a 35-176 record in the previous decade. 

Losing was part of the job. It was sewn into the fabric of the program; it had become expected. But Holt had every intention of making sure expectations changed. 

Winning didn't happen overnight, nor did it occur after two or three seasons, but slowly, the Lady Red Devils chipped away at the notion that Jo Byrns couldn't win. 

After taking over for the 2015-2016 season, Holt and Jo Byrns continued to struggle, winning just one game in her first year.

"Five years ago, I would leave after a game and go cry in my car in the parking lot," Holt. "I would ask myself, 'What am I thinking?' It took what seems like forever, but the girls finally bought in. I wanted to give up many times."

Thankfully for Jo Byrns girls basketball, she didn't give up. She stayed faithful to her belief that she could give the girls something better.

"I didn't give up because I wanted to give my daughter (Becca Holt) better," she said. "I think it all changed at the start of last season - Becca's senior year. I just knew there was something special about that team. When I first started, if we got down by 15 in the first quarter, we were done. That happened last year in our first game in the district tournament against McEwen, but they fought back and won. That was a real turning point." 

The Lady Red Devils went on to finish last season 22-8, including winning their first district tournament since 1993 and advancing to the state sectional round. 

Momentum has carried over into this year, and Holt believes that this year's group has a shot at repeating as district champs and advancing back to the sectionals, which would leave them just one win away from the TSSAA Class A state tournament in Murfreesboro. 

"This is a very coachable team, and they do what I tell them to do. It's a true dream to coach these girls," Holt said. "Expectations are high. I want that for them. They have worked so hard. We have goals, and once we reach them, we check them off and go for the next one. We want to go for it all."

The team is currently riding a 10-game win streak with a 30-point margin of victory during that span. Before getting ready for the district tournament, Jo Byrns faces challenging contests versus Cheatham County (Feb. 10) and at Red Boiling Springs (Feb. 13). 

"Those teams will test us," Holt said. "We need those games right now because they will help us get to where we need to go." 

Although Holt doesn't cry in her car after games anymore, she does hope to shed a few more tears after cutting down the nets in Murfreesboro.


Jo Byrns (84): Brooke Dowlen 21, Grayson Bryant 14, Evy Helm 12, Alycia Schlueter 9, Reese Payne 8, Brianna Rivera 6, Ashlen Bryant 6, Jaya Herring 4, Caroline Reed 2, Noelle Lancaster 2. 

Merrol Hyde (32): Macy Thomas 15, Peyton Mingle 6, Maddie Shelton 3, Presley Mingle 3, Olivia Short 3, Taylor Jordin 2.

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