Smoky Mountain coach makes an impact on and off the court

Smoky Mountain coach Heather Klipa looks on as the Mustangs make a 3-point shot. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

The regular season doesn’t mean too much in the grand scheme of things when it comes to high school basketball. Tournament time is when it really counts, but the 20-plus games that precede the postseason offer a glimpse at who the top teams in the area are.

Over the past two seasons, the Smoky Mountain girls basketball team has firmly cemented itself in that discussion. The Mustangs ended last season with a 27-3 mark and have jumped to an 11-0 record thus far in the 2017-18 campaign.

“We're a new team, and we're a young team,” explained senior forward Aleshia Tisho. “Most of the girls that are on the team now, I haven't played with before. So, now, we're starting to mesh together and figure out how each other plays.”

The girls have an excellent leader to guide them through the transition. Heather Klipa is in her second season as the head coach after spending the previous five seasons as an assistant at SMHS.

“I've been very lucky to have great coaches my whole life,” said Klipa, who played at Western Carolina from 2006-10. “I knew this [coaching] is what I wanted to do, and I just had great people around me I've tried to learn from my whole life.”

Though Klipa is young in years, she’s already impressed Tisho.

“She's a very smart coach,” Tisho emphasized with wide eyes. “She knows what to do and when to do it.”

Basketball is not the only place Klipa tries to make an impact. Tisho said her coach often tells the team to take the lessons they learn during practice into their everyday lives.

“At the end of the day, that's the reason why I want to do this,” Klipa said. “My coaches had a huge impact on my life when I was playing and growing up, and my hope is I can have the same impact on these kids.”

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