Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 23, 2009 3:53PM

Support high school hoops

Rate: 8 Flag

fc mays

I spent the past week (and every Tuesday and Friday of the past three months) watching Georgia high school basketball. And I loved every minute of it.

The Region 5-AAAA tournament wrapped up Saturday at Lithia Springs High School in Douglas County. It lasted all week. The semis and the finals were as exciting as any sporting event I've ever attended: back and forth battles, seemingly impossible comebacks, herculean individual efforts and a half court buzzer-beating game winner--all in front of a raucous crowd of Douglas, South Fulton and Fayette County parents, fans and players. Every dunk blew the roof off the building. Every clutch three sent the fans into a frenzy. My alma mater, Fayette County High School, won it all in both the boys and girls brackets. Three other local teams punched their tickets to the state tournament as well: the Sandy Creek boys and girls and the McIntosh boys.

But, it was the Fayette County Lady Tigers that really stood out. Coached by my former track mentor and friend John Strickland, the Lady Tigers record now sits at 27-0. USA Today currently ranks them 18th nationally.

Watching The Lady Tigers on the court is like popping in an instructional tape on how to play hoops. Senior leader Tessah Holt handles the ball and runs the floor as well as any high school athlete I've ever seen. Junior forwards Sasha Sims and Anma Onyeuku both possess tremendous basketball IQs, garnered from years of hard work and practice. Both forwards move quicker than their counterparts on other teams. Both know exactly where they are on the court at all times. The only difference between the two: Onyeuku is a better catch and shoot scorer. Sims is the better shot blocker. A trio of senior guards round out the main rotation: Dekota Walton, Chasity Welch and Areille Register. Welch, a two sport star (she'll play softball in college), leads the team in steals. Walton is a three point specialist and Register plays the role of shutdown perimeter defender.

Fayette won the championship Saturday by handing Mays its second loss of the season. The Lady Raiders of Mays are ranked second in the state of Georgia and have lost only twice this year--both times to Fayette County. In the semis, Douglas County pushed Fayette to the brink. With the score tied at 47 and only three seconds showing on the game clock, Tessah Holt took the inbound pass, sprinted toward the middle of the court and fired away as the buzzer sounded. As soon as the ball left her hands there was no doubt: nothing but net.

Teammates mobbed Holt at half court. The fans either screamed in jubilation or stared wide-eyed in complete disbelief.

Fayette County has become a bit of a local basketball dynasty. Saturday’s win gave the Lady Tigers their third region championship in as many years. In 2008, both Fayette teams--girls and boys--advanced all the way to the AAAA state championship games. Coming off the most successful year in the program's history, the Lady Tigers upped the ante this season.

For the players and coaches to realize their dreams, the winning trend must continue. Fayette County has never captured a state championship. I think that this will be the year.

This post is partly to to gush about my local Fayetteville stars, but its more than that.

The underlying point is that even in the age of performance enhancing drugs, multi-million dollar contracts, $80 tickets and college recruiting wars; sports remain relevant. And the next great performance is likely only a few miles away.

There's a basketball or baseball or softball team in your area that is out there winning games or at least inspiring through intense effort. Tickets to sporting events at your local high school don't cost more than a few dollars. You can still buy a hot dog at the concession stand for a buck fifty--the profit going to support the band boosters or the cheerleading squad.

Get involved. Go to some games. Read the recaps in your local papers. Your reward--as they say in the commercials-- is priceless: a real sense of community; a connection to the generations of tomorrow; a chance to scream and jump around for the kids down the street.

Basketball state tournaments are now tipping off nationwide. A state title is on the line in every state, across all classifications. Check it out. Bring your family. You won't be disappointed.

(I took the photo at Fayette County High School a couple of weeks ago when the undefeated Lady Tigers (27-0) took on the then undefeated Mays Lady Raiders (25-2) in the regular season finale. Fayette won 73-50. The gym was packed--a standing room only crowd, as the picture clearly shows... A standing room only crowd for a regular season high school girls basketball game. How can that not warm the heart of everyone with a daughter or neice or granddaughter involved in youth sports?)


Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
As a former high school lady ballers, I give a thumbs up to this article. Winning sectionals for the first time in our school's history (in any sport, men or women's, EVER) was one of the greatest moments of my life, and I know that the fans present felt the total euphoria that coursed through our bodies as well. Support your local sports teams!
Thanks for reading and commenting MT. I was a high school athlete as well. Track and Field didn't normally draw the crowds except for the biggest meets. When the crowds were there, it was truly special.
I was a high school and college athlete in volleyball. And you're right on the money with this post. I LOVED going to my high school alma mater sports games. They were way more fun than going to my university's sports game and way-way more fun than the pro sports games. I've since moved away from home so I have to keep up with how my high school's teams are faring through its newsletter. It will be fun to go to my kid's high school games when she gets older.
While I don't have much interest in basketball I certainly agree that sports on the high school level and even before that is terribly important. The future of all sports is in their hands.
I live for high school and college basketball. You're description of the emotions and suspense are excellent. I prefer the boys games because of the speed, but the top females teams are very entertaining. I saw a video of a horrible ending to a playoff game in Alabama last week when both teams and fans brawled bigtime. Blood and gore. Fortunately, that is the only downside to hoops, the emotions can get out of control... My local High School team was down by one with the ball and 33 seconds to play in the County Champship game last saturday, and got three chances to win. Incredible excitement and disappointment. The Regionals start tomorrow night. Yea Baby Yea..
What a great write up of a great game! I just loved this - loved it!!! I had an upstairs neighbor with a football playing son and I went to his games. He has since graduated and moved away, and I miss those afternoons and occasional evenings in the stands. Time to look for a team to support!
This is something I am very passionate about as a former Georgia 5A basketball player. There's really nothing quite as exciting. Rated
Excellent post. I entered journalism in the early eighties and was forced to spend Friday nights covering small school basketball in Hoopeston, Ill. I was a quick convert, learning how coaches could use the talent they had to stay in the game with better teams. Watching kids buy into the system inspired them and they played with confidence and gusto every night. The more I learned, the more fun in was. The tiny, sweaty gyms were home to some of the most exciting sports I have ever seen.
Ahhhh, disappointment. It's in the eye of the non-player. Does every student athelete get to play in the big game? Why do they not play? Why did you play? To win? Have fun? Be with your guys? All of it? Not all of the team members get to play at the big dance or even some of the games leading up to it. It's difficult to tell a 15, 16, 17 year old student-athelete that all of the hours and hours of practice; commitment to good grades; and the team fund raising activities by the team members are just an exercise in life. Yes, not everyone gets to play in the game. It's true. Some coaches get it, others don't and even worse, some don't care. It is the nature of the beast for high school atheletics. My HS experience was to be with my friends and have some fun. They all want to play in the game that is why they are on the team. I do support my son's HS teams and his efforts to be a player just not an observer. Cheers!
Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm glad to see others getting excited about high school sports