Four years ago, the Hannibal girls’ basketball team suffered through a winless season. The experience was so bad, almost all of the players did not return for their sophomore campaign.

The one person who has been there through it all though, is Theresa Sheffer.

“My eighth grade year we started out with 20 girls,” Sheffer said. “Then my freshman year we were down to seven. Now, I am the only senior.”

As a freshman, Sheffer averaged 5.5 points a game for the Lady Pirates. Even though she suffered through the winless season, Sheffer never once thought about quitting.

“I just couldn’t give up,” Sheffer said. “It was tough my freshman year going 0-23, but I knew that hard work would pay off. “

Sheffer’s entire freshman campaign wasn’t that bad. Even though the Lady Pirates didn’t win a game, they were in several of the games.

There was a game in late December (2010) where Hannibal lost in triple-overtime to Barry Western. Two other games had the Lady Pirates losing by seven points or less.

“There were about three or four that were pretty close,” Sheffer said. “The rest were blowouts. It boosted our confidence. Instead of being down by 17 or 20 (points), we were only down three or four.”

As the only player from her class returning for her sophomore campaign, Sheffer was injured when she received a concussion that forced her to miss the entire season.

“It is tough to have to sit out,” Sheffer said. “I hate watching. I always want to be in the game. But I knew what I had to do to get better for the next year so I could come back even stronger.”

Hannibal coach Ron Greenwell said Sheffer always wanted to be in the game.

“She is a tough kid,” Greenwell said. “”She wants to play even with the concussions. She will run into a wall and be ready to go.”

While she was out, Sheffer remained with her team. She was with the Lady Pirates when they finally won a game.

Eight games into the season (Dec. 20, 2010), Hannibal beat Barry Western 43-38 for the Pirates’ first win since Feb. 18, 2009 (against Mexico).

“It was really exciting (when we got the first win),” Sheffer said. “It was the first time we had won. Knowing that we could and had the ability to win, we started getting an attitude that we could win instead of always going in knowing we were going to lose.”

Hannibal won two more games that year. The Lady Pirates beat Marshall 40-24 on Feb. 9, 2011 and then won again (beating Warrenton 52-47) on the last day (Feb. 16, 2011) of the regular season. Hannibal finished the season 3-16.

Back on the court as a junior, the Lady Pirates continued to improve. Hannibal finished the season with a record of 4-17. Sheffer increased her scoring to an average of 6.5 points a game as a junior.

Sheffer did not go completely injury free her junior year. She suffered another concussion that forced her to miss about two weeks of the season.

“Her defense and her energy are going to be the main thing that we miss from Theresa,” Greenwell said. “She didn’t play her sophomore season because she had a concussion. She came back her junior and senior years and toughed it out. She had another concussion last year and toughed it out. I have nothing but respect for Theresa.”

Entering her senior year, Hannibal has continued to find success on the court. For the first time in several years, the Lady Pirates won their season opener when they beat Highland 42-28. Then in mid-December, the Lady Pirates won back-to-back games. In early January, Hannibal finished in third place at the Highland Tournament. Hannibal won back-to-back games again earlier this month, including one that went into overtime.

“I love the team that I am on,” Sheffer said. “This is the best team that I could ask for. We have stuck through it and we always pick each other up.”

In her final year on the Hannibal hardwood, Sheffer has continued to improve. In 19 games, Sheffer has scored 155 points for the Lady Pirates her senior season, good for an average of 8.5 points a game. She is also averaging 2 steals per game.

This past Monday, Hannibal held senior night for Sheffer. While the Lady Pirates did not beat Mexico, Sheffer led the team with 10 points.

“We are going to miss her,” Greenwell said after Monday’s game. “Being our lone senior, of course she is a team leader for us. She had a pretty decent game for us tonight. She was above her scoring average for the season.”

Heading into the district playoffs, Hannibal has won more games this year (nine) than the Lady Pirates won in the previous two seasons combined (seven).

“(Sheffer) is a great kid and a good person,” Greenwell said. “She will be duly missed, but at least I get her for at least one more game.”

Looking back, Sheffer said some of her teammates have asked why she kept coming back after all the losing.

“I have had some people ask why I stuck it out,” Sheffer said. “I tell them I am a hard worker and eventually it will pay off.”

With the success that Sheffer and the Lady Pirates have had this year, she was spot on right.

Whether or not Monday is Sheffer’s final game in a Lady Pirates uniform, one thing is certain, Sheffer never quit on her team. She left it all out on the court.

“I was taught to never give up,” Sheffer said. “Giving up is never an option for me. I knew it would be hard, but I just kept fighting.”