The Banks County Lady Leopards didn't get a victory last week, but just because the team lost didn't mean the whole week was a wash.
In fact, the Lady Leopards may have found their springboard to play well through the end of the regular season.
Banks County fell to Rabun County, 67-56, Friday (Jan. 17) at home. But the team was tied with the Wildcats 49-49 entering the fourth quarter. Banks County even led 49-40 with 4:01 left in the third quarter.
The Lady Leopards only trailed 62-56 with 1:13 left in the game. Rabun County is ranked No. 1 in Class AA, according to MaxPreps.
"I felt about as good after a loss as I ever have," Banks County head coach Steven Shedd said. "I felt good about it. I’ve never been one for moral victories, but when it has been a struggle, like this season has been at times, when you play so well most of the ball game and have a chance to win against a great team, you feel good about things.
"That’s the kind of team we can be as long as we show up. We’re starting to play really well. I believe four quarters of that type of play would have gotten us a win ... We look at what we have left, and we feel like we can beat everybody we have left."
Banks County's schedule includes region rematches with Elbert and Union counties. The team lost to both teams by a combined eight points earlier this month.
"If we can win out and get a little help by Putnam County and Rabun taking care of business, we are shooting for that three seed going into the region tournament," Shedd said. "We have a lot left to play for. Our goal is to win out and get as high of a seed as we can."
To this point, the Lady Leopards' schedule has featured top-10 ranked teams within Region 8-AA (Putnam, Rabun, Union counties) and outside of the region.
Shedd called the team's schedule tough to this point, but the group wasn't able to pull off some of the wins early, which could change down the stretch. And if there's one area he sees where improvement will need to come from, it is his team learning how to finish games.
"I still feel like we’re young, but we’re right there," Shedd added. "I think we’re playing our best basketball right now. We just have to finish … Don’t know if it is a lack of focus, tired, combination of both, but we’ve got to figure a way to pull the games out. I think we’re getting there."
The young team showed poise vs. Rabun County, trailing 30-20 midway through the second quarter, Banks County cut the deficit to one point with 26.4 seconds left before the break.
Shedd said part of the team's maturity, especially vs. Rabun County, came with the younger players learning how to break the press defense. Against Putnam County (Jan. 14), two freshmen also led the team in scoring.
"We're starting to play faster, more aggressive, and we're confident on the court," Shedd said.