Area Sports...

March 14, 2001

Lady Dragons earn school's third state title in five months
It looked to be a runaway from the start, but Saturday's state Class A championship final turned out to be anything but.
Jefferson's Lady Dragons recovered from a 12-point second-quarter deficit to defeat the Lady Wolves of Wesleyan 55-52 to claim the 2001 girls' state crown.
Wesleyan pulled out to an early 20-9 lead in the opening frame, though a trio of crisp passes down the lane from Staci Childress to Sunny Bush and Lee DuBose resulted in six quick points that closed the gap to 22-15 by quarter's end.
"They sure had me worried in the first quarter," head coach Kevin Jacobs said afterward. "We knew they'd come out and hit some three pointers, but we didn't expect them to hit that many." Wesleyan hit six shots from behind the line in the first half.
Jefferson showed great patience in the second, passing around the perimeter to open someone up. Melinda Floyd turned out to be that someone, the junior wing hitting three three-point shots in the period. Still, the Wolves held a five-point lead at the half.
Quarter three was the magic one for Jefferson. Jefferson's full-court press held the Wesleyan offense in check, and the Wolves put only two points on the board and came up with only one offensive rebound. Wesleyan missed five shots from the paint, and in the midst of the quarter gave up four straight turnovers.
Meanwhile, the Lady Dragons hit seven of 13 shots in the period to take a 46-36 lead into the final quarter. Jefferson's technical game was superb in the closing minutes, with several plays that ran so smoothly, they looked as if they'd leapt off the chalkboard.
Wesleyan pressed hard in the fourth, and the tactic paid off for the Wolves, though not as well as it had earlier for Jefferson.
The Lady Dragons missed two uncontested layups in the fourth quarter, but DuBose put seven of her team's nine on the board to maintain a slim edge.
Wesleyan's shooting remained suspect, but the Wolves' press managed to pick off four of Jefferson's inbound passes in the quarter. With a minute left and Jefferson up by seven, Nikki Luckhurst tipped away an inbound pass and threw to Dana Birnie for an easy two points. After a foul and a missed Lady Dragon free throw attempt, Luckhurst found the basket from outside for three points at the 27-second mark to make it a two-point game.
Guard Jenny Hall tipped another inbound pass away and picked up the loose ball after a mad dash, but DuBose intercepted Hall's pass across court and was fouled. DuBose hit the first of her one-and-one foul shots, leaving Wesleyan plenty of time to set up for a tying three-pointer.
The Lady Wolves rushed their shot a bit, and missed from three-point range. Jefferson senior Ashley Evans fought for the rebound under the basket, resulting in a jump ball. The possession arrow pointed to Jefferson, with only two seconds remaining.
DuBose inbounded underneath the Wesleyan basket. Head coach Kevin Jacobs had instructed DuBose to throw the ball as deep down court as possible, and the junior followed the command. The ball was picked off, and Wesleyan had one last chance to tie, but the shot was taken late and missed the basket.
"We could probably play them 10 times, and it would come out 5-5," Jacobs said of Wesleyan. "Today was just our day. Our heart and our guts and our hustle have brought us a long way."
DuBose had 22 points in the game. Melinda Floyd scored 14, and Annie Goza 12.
For more coverage ,see this week's Jackson Herald.

Leopards swing to wins
If the Leopard's last three games are any indication of how the rest of their games will go, they could be in for a good season.
Banks County scored 43 runs in their last three games while giving up only 11.
"We came out hitting it," Leopard head coach Mike Williams said. "I'm fairly pleased with the way we hit the ball."
The team combined for a .429 batting average over its first three games. The Leopards have also hit five home runs.
Banks' next test will come Saturday in a doubleheader at Jackson County beginning at 11 a.m.
On Monday, the Leopard's all-important region schedule will open up against first-year school Apalachee.
"Jackson County will be a big game for us," Williams said. "They'll be good and competitive. They're the best team we'll see outside of the region. We feel like we can beat them, so hopefully we can come out with a victory. But our main focus is the region play."
As Banks County moves into its region schedule, the team will have a chance to look at its past few games to find areas that need work.
"Defensively we have not had a lot of opportunities to field the ball," Williams said. "We've made some errors. Our defense played OK, but they haven't been tested."
As for pitching, all three of Banks' hurlers saw time on the mound last week.
"We saw several different guys throw and, for the most part, we're pretty pleased with what we've seen," Williams said. "We saw a little control problem against Lakeview, but some of them may be nervous these first few games."
So far, the Leopards have posted a 2.72 ERA and have given up seven earned runs. At the same time, Banks County has recorded 30 strikeouts.
"I'd much rather see folks swinging than walking to first base," Williams said.

Bats Hot, Gloves Cold For Baseball Tigers
The hitting is there and the pitching is coming around, but if the Commerce Tiger baseball team doesn't find some defense, it'll be a long season.
Three games into the 2001 campaign, the 1-2 Tigers have committed 17 errors. In the process, they beat Athens Christian last Thursday 9-7 in Commerce, but dropped a doubleheader Saturday to Banks County, 12-2 and 9-7.
"We made, in two games, 13 errors, which severely handicapped us," pointed out coach David Cash. "We're not a good enough hitting team or good enough pitching team to give that many errors. We can't afford to give four outs in an inning, but sometimes it felt like we were giving five or six."
The Tigers were scheduled to take on Athens Academy today (Wednesday) at 4:30 at home.
"They're a pretty good team. I hope our errors will take care of themselves. Our hitting is adequate, our pitching is coming around, but our defense is still suspect," Cash concluded.
In the Athens Christian contest, the game went back and forth. Athens Christian took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but Commerce went up 4-1 in the bottom of the second. The Spartans added a run in the top of the third, but Commerce answered with three in the bottom of the inning. The Spartans scored three in the fifth and one in the seventh, but the Tigers added two in the fifth to preserve the win, picking up 12 hits along the way.
Freshman Casha Daniels, who pitched an inning and a third without giving up a run, got the win. Dane Cotrell pitched two innings, Steven Bihss worked, and Chad Jordan and Brody Bearden also pitched.
"We wanted to get a lot of people some pitches, and we were real pleased with all of the pitching," said Cash, "Casha Daniels especially. He came in in the top of the third, got the out, then retired all three batters he faced in the fourth inning."
On offense, Kevin Wilson had a pair of doubles and two runs batted in. Charlie Epps had two hits and two RBIs, Jordan had a pair of hits and one RBI and Craig Henderson and Cotrell each had a pair of hits.
Cotrell pitched two innings and gave up seven runs on five hits to take the loss, but he wasn't exactly supported by the Tigers' offense or defense.
Banks County scored two runs in the first, five in the second, three in the fifth and two in the sixth, while the Tigers' two runs all came in the fourth inning. Commerce managed but three hits, while making seven errors.
Bihss pitched three innings, giving up three runs on four hits, and Henderson went two-thirds of an inning, giving up two runs on two hits.
Henderson's two-RBI single in the fourth was the highlight of the Tiger offense.
A seven-run second inning gave the Leopards a 9-2 lead and all the runs they needed to sweep the twin bill.
The Tigers made it interesting with four runs in the seventh inning, but the rally came up short.
Daniels took the loss for Commerce, giving up eight runs and six hits in one complete inning. Bearden worked five innings, giving up only one run on four hits.
Adam Stephenson had a solo homer and two RBIs, and Jordan picked up an RBI for the Tigers in the only offensive highlights.

Jackson County 3-1 after first week of play
AFTER their first week of play, the Jackson County baseball team is off to a solid start at 3-1.
The Panthers will take on Banks County and Rabun County Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday will also mark the team's annual barbecue. Though tickets were presold, head coach Rusty Hendricks indicated this week that there will likely be several chickens left over for late-comers. The price is $5 per plate.
Lakeview will welcome the Panthers next Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., and the team's region schedule is set to begin March 23 at 5:30 p.m. at home against Monroe Area.
Tim Whisnant put up a no-hitter during last Wednesday's 6-0 blanking of Apalachee. Whisnant faced 26 batters over seven innings, and gave up only two walks.
"Tim had a good game," Hendricks said, "and we played solid defense." The Panthers yielded only two errors in the game.
Michael Savadge had the hot bat, with a home run, a double and four runs batted in. Whisnant added a double to his spectacular pitching performance, and Cody Fortson came through with a key hit.
Blake Wilson kept his batting average perfect, with one hit and a walk. Wilson was also hit by a pitch.
Jackson County split a doubleheader Saturday with Social Circle.
The Panthers won game one 9-1, behind strong pitching from Trey McConnell. McConnell recorded eight strikeouts in the game, and gave up only one walk and three hits.
Savadge continued to carry a hot bat, with a home run and a double.
"He's on fire right now," Hendricks said.
Fortson added a home run, Whisnant two doubles, and Wilson and Michael Hill also doubled.
Lee Reese came through with a double and a sacrifice.
"We played a good solid game. Everybody did their part up and down the lineup. We totally dominated the game offensively and defensively."
Game two was a different story, with the Redskins winning 4-0. Hendricks gave his bench players extensive playing time in the game.
"We didn't swing the bat well in that game. We could have won, but we still felt good about what we've got going on. The main thing is that we got Michael Savadge on the mound."
In his first pitching performance since a Christmas auto accident that injured his pitching shoulder, Savadge struck out seven and walked three in six innings. He gave up five hits, but only one earned run.
"He didn't get a lot of defensive help," Hendricks said. Jackson County committed six errors in the game.
"He felt confident afterward, and he didn't have any pain, other than the normal arm tiredness. That was a big plus for us. We don't like the errors, but we feel good about the starting mix we've got out there.
"We feel real good about how hard the guys are working, and our chemistry is good. We're still working toward the region schedule. If we can get everybody back to 100 percent health, we'll be able to compete."

30-0 1981 season was the peak of a remarkable MCHS girls' basketball era
The old banner that hangs from the Madison County gym ceiling is lifeless to those who don't know the stories behind the cloth. But for many in this community, the 1981 Lady Raider state championship banner signifies a part of their life that will never be forgotten.
They recall that some 1,500 Madison County faithful made the trek to the Macon Coliseum March 14, 1981 - 20 years to this day - to watch the Lady Raiders whip Teresa Edwards and the Cairo Lady Syrupmakers 50-34, ending a magical 30-0 season.
They remember the trophy presentation, the smiles and hugs, shouts of elation, the ride home, ending with fire trucks setting off their hoses as the bus entered the school. Then a red carpet was laid out for the victors as they got off the bus.
Sheila Collins, one of the top girls' players in the history of girls' basketball in Georgia, averaged 33 points per game that year for Madison County. She was the stuff of legend - still is.
And on that historic March day Collins outplayed the future Olympian in one of the best matchups imaginable. Madison County entered the contest at 29-0. Cairo was 30-0.
The Syrupmakers had a height advantage. But neither Collins nor her teammates were intimidated. And why should they be? The Lady Raiders had lost just nine games over the previous three years. And with her team up 25-22 at intermission, Collins took the floor again after halftime, knowing the day was Madison County's.
"I told Becky Porterfield when we came back on the court, 'We're not going to lose,'" said Collins, who finished the game with 29 points to Edwards' 14.
Collins' dominance over Edwards typified the year for the star and her team. Consider that the closest the Lady Raiders came to a loss was a seven-point, 68-61 win over Forsyth County in the second game of the season. Consider that the Lady Raiders averaged 70.9 points per game, while allowing just 39.8 points per contest.
But on a broader scale, the 1981 season typified the times in Lady Raider basketball. The championship season was the pinnacle of a Madison County era of dominance under head coach C. Leon Fitzpatrick, whose teams were 209-41 between 1976 and 1984. Fitzpatrick retired from the position with the highest winning percentage (83.6 percent) among active girls' coaches in Georgia at that time.
Madison County advanced to the state semifinals six times during that run, making the state finals in 1978, 1979 and 1981.
Fitzpatrick said the 1981 squad was "not as talented as the 78-79 team," but "they were a little more focused." He added that the team had great senior leadership.
"They were an exceptional group of girls," said Fitzpatrick. "They were just regular kids off the floor but very professional on the court."
Fitzpatrick remembers how Becky and Beth Porterfield played solid defense, how Lori Kinney could nail the outside shot, how Beverly Johnson was "a good inside player to be only 5'9."
There were other players who contributed, too: Patsy Jones, Natalie Allen, Latana Fitts, Lari Brown, Tammie Whitsel and Donna Arndt.
And Collins was, of course, amazing.
"She (Collins) could play the whole game - inside, outside," said Fitzpatrick. "She could go over big people. Her jump shot was near perfect form. She had the kind of shot you don't teach - picture book."
Collins, whose best game that year was a 57-point effort against Franklin County, smiles when she speaks of one occasion in 1981 when her coach wasn't so happy with her.
She said her aunt wanted to take her to Atlanta to get her hair done. But that meant skipping practice. So Collins told her coach that she had to make a doctor's visit due to an illness. She came back to school with a new hairdo.
"Which doctor?" the coach asked.
"I couldn't lie any more," said Collins.
So Fitzpatrick punished his star, benching her for the first quarter in the showdown with Franklin County in the sub-region tournament. A loss would have ended the season for the Lady Raiders.
"There were all these recruiters there to see me and I was sitting on the bench," said Collins, who scored 29 points after she entered the game in the second quarter. "My hair looked great, but my aunt was having a fit."
But the recruiters noticed the girl with pretty hair. And Collins went on to star at Tennessee, bouncing back from a knee injury early in her college career with an All-America season as a senior. Also in 1985, Collins was named SEC tournament MVP after scoring 95 total points in three tournament games. Following college, Collins played professional ball in Italy and Germany.
Collins said she remembers the SEC MVP and the 1981 state championship as the two most special moments in her basketball career.
"Playing in college was different than playing in high school," said Collins. "I enjoyed playing in high school because it was so innocent. You just played because you wanted to. It was a county effort. It pulled everybody together. I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world."
Of all the coaches she's had, she remembers Fitzpatrick as one of the best.
"He was very fundamental," said Collins of her high school coach. "He was one of the most fundamental coaches I've ever played for. He was very specific about what you were supposed to do and when....Coach was able to make players accept whatever role they had. I had to accept my role humbly."
Latana (Fitts) Coile, who now serves as an assistant varsity girls' basketball coach at MCHS, recalls how the team dressed alike and how the team motto was the popular song of the day, "We are family." She said much of the team unity came from Fitzpatrick.
"He (Fitzpatrick) was real big on being a team," said Coile. "He knew what roles people could play....Our team chemistry was really unique."
Coile said the coach was more advanced than his counterparts of the day.
"Coach Fitzpatrick was a little ahead of the game with what we were doing defensively with the man-to-man and also with the fast break," said Coile. "He was doing things that coaches in the late 1980s and early 1990s began to do. Our style was a little ahead of most people."
Fitzpatrick said the moments on the court were made much brighter because of the strong support of the community. The former coach recalls the dedicated fans - like Gerald and Glenda Jordan, Hoppy and Patsy Royston, Alvin and Geraldine Stamps and Al Stone - who rarely, if ever, missed a game.
And he remembers how the team was "mobbed" by fans when it returned from Macon after the championship. The gym was full of people cheering and waving banners.
"It was like a game was going on in there," said Fitzpatrick.
But perhaps the biggest reward for Fitzpatrick extends beyond the 1981 season and has taken years to realize.
"All of these girls have been successful in life," said Fitzpatrick proudly.
And that success touched the Lady Raiders this season, as coach Coile helped the Lady Raiders reach the state's Elite 8.
Coile said she still looks up from the sidelines at the banner and reflects on the special moments of 1981.
"When you go in the gym and look up at that banner, there's a sense of pride," said Coile. "It still moves you 20 years later. There's still a spark inside."
Two players on the 1981 state championship team have family ties with this year's Lady Raiders. Lori Kinney's niece Sheena Mason played for this year's team. Sheila Collins' niece Ashley Collins also played for the 2000-2001 Lady Raiders.

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