It will be the second trek to Columbus within a week’s span, but the players and coaches for the Winder-Barrow High School Lady Bulldoggs basketball team certainly don’t mind.
WBHS is set for an appearance in the GHSA Class AAAAA Elite Eight after dispatching of Carver-Columbus 49-43 last week. While that win was in the home gym of Carver-Columbus High School, this Thursday the Lady Bulldoggs will compete at Columbus State University as a 3 p.m. showdown with Mays High School looms.
It’s already been quite a season for Winder-Barrow, breaking a state tournament drought which dated back more than two decades. Competing in Region 8-AAAAA, which has three teams in the Elite Eight, helped prepare the Lady Bulldoggs for the state tournament challenge.
“It’s a testament to the talent in our region,” coach Brandon Thomas said. “Playing several quality teams helped prepare us for state. We just hope to keep it going at this point.”
The Mays High School Lady Raiders are led by several quality players including Kamiyah Street, who scored 47 points in a Sweet Sixteen game against Grovetown.
“They like to play up-tempo and pressure you, just like our last opponent,” Thomas said. “They want to play fast and get the basketball to their top scorer.”
The journey into the state tournament has been exciting for each member of the Lady Bulldoggs.
Tiera Mayweather, the team’s lone senior for 2015-2016, said the experience has been “crazy.”
“Being the only senior on the team, this season has meant so much to me,” Mayweather said. “Our goal was to get to the state tournament and break the long drought the program has had. We’ve been able to do that and now we are in the Elite Eight. Regardless of what happens moving forward, I’m happy to know that a new tradition has been established for the Lady Bulldoggs.
Sophomore Latrice Perkins has been one of the key players on the court this season.
“The support we’ve received from the community has been great,” Perkins said. “Right now we want to keep it going. We are having fun and if we go out and execute we can continue what we’ve started.”
Sophomore Olivia Nelson-Ododa said she also has been impressed with the community support.
“Our goal since the summer has been to get to state and do something when we got there,” she said. “It means a lot that so many people have gotten behind us. Even a couple of years ago, no one would have thought this would have been possible to be one of the teams in the Elite Eight.”
WBHS realizes that its semi-final opponent will be a very strong test.
“We saw them during the summer so we know just how good they are,” Mayweather said. “ However, we are excited about going back to Columbus and we will be ready for them.”
One of the benefits of making it this far in the postseason is that it gives teams several days to prepare for the next opponent.
The Lady Bulldoggs also will have almost a week in between the Sweet Sixteen game and Thursday’s Elite Eight contest. That will give all players a chance to be at 100 percent and well rested when they take the court again.
The winner of Thursday afternoon’s game between WBHS and Mays will advance to the semifinals, also set to be played at Columbus State on Saturday at 3 p.m.
Other Elite Eight games: Flowery Branch vs. Brunswick; Loganville vs. Sequoyah; Columbus vs. Southwest DeKalb.