Four wins last year and never more than seven in one season. As the new season readied to tip off, history didn’t support the notion that the Coahulla Creek High School girls basketball team was about to embark on a state playoff run.
The Lady Colts, however, were undeterred in believing.
Saturday, the team faces Pace Academy in Atlanta at 4 p.m. in a Class 3A first round playoff game, the first state playoff game in the program’s seven-year history.
“It’s always in the back of our minds and it’s always at the bottom of our hearts,” senior forward Maggie Linder said. “We want to get there, it’s always one of our main goals. Now that we’re here and it’s actually happening, it’s probably one of the best feelings we’ve ever experienced.”
Junior Lily Snyder said the team never doubted what they could accomplish.
“I knew,” she said. “I know our team has a lot of potential and some of it can even be untapped. I know our team has the potential to do whatever it takes. Our first game we played at home and we beat the record, I knew this was going to be our year.”
After an 0-3 start to the season, the Lady Colts’ first win came in record fashion beating Bremen 75-39. The 75 points set a program record for most in a game. Less than a week later, they set another record scoring 77 in a win over Calhoun.
“After that game we thought ‘This is a springboard game for us,’” Lady Colt coach Jody Bacchus said. “It was Calhoun, who’s got that mental trance on everybody. We thought after that game ‘We got a team here. If we can instil some confidence in them, we can do something special here.’”
What made this group the one that would make school history?
“This year has been the year where all the puzzle pieces finally fit together,” Linder said. “We finally came together as a team, every working part working as one. That was the best part of seeing this year come together, seeing all the teamwork happening and us growing together.”
One of the biggest puzzle pieces was the arrival of junior point guard Ally Morrow, a transfer for Polk County High School in Tennessee.
“It’s been everything to us to get her out here. Her last three games, the region tournament, she’s just been exceptional,” Bacchus said. “She’s a pass-first type point guard. She’s been everything to us. We did struggle last year taking care of the basketball. We had girls transitioning in and out from the point guard position. We had to play Lily at the point some last year. She’s better at the 2 (shooting guard). It’s just been getting girls in their comfortable spots being able to thrive in a position they can thrive in.”
For Morrow, it was a natural fit with her new teammates.
“They were very welcoming with me coming to the team,” Morrow said. “They’re great shooters, great offensively, they hustle. I just felt like I fit right in. Being a point guard, I got to look to pass the ball and it really helps they were there and were good shooters. Made my job easier.”
She added that the togetherness of the team has been crucial in reaching the playoffs.
“I think it helps with our team chemistry that we all get a long well together,” Morrow said. “That shows on the court I think, we always have each other’s back. If someone misses a shot, we’re there to say, hey, do it again. Always there for each other.”
It’s also helped make the year more memorable.
“This year has been really special to me,” Linder said. “My junior year I didn’t play. Coming back and realizing how much I love each and every one of these girls and us just growing together, being sisters, as a family, that’s the best part. Just being out here with them and experiencing all this together.”
The Lady Colts (14-13) are the third seed out of Region 6-3A, beating Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe in the third place game to qualify for state. Coahulla Creek plays a Lady Knights team that is 16-8 and the Region 5-3A runners-up.
Pace Academy presents one of the toughest, if not the toughest, challenge the Lady Colts have had this season. But coming off its run at the region tournament, the confidence level at Coahulla Creek is high.
“They have a lot of height and they have a lot of girls that like to drive the ball and there’s some that can shoot,” Snyder said. “I think if we all play together and beat them in transition we can win.”
The familiarity level between the schools isn’t as high as with the region opponents Coahulla Creek toppled last week. Snyder feels that works to her team’s advantage.
“I feel it’s easier to go out and play a team you don’t really know what competition you’re facing,” she said. “We can play our ball and not play to the competition. Just do what we do best.”
It’s already been a history-making season for Coahulla Creek, but it’s not one the girls are ready to see end just yet.
“We’re really proud of where we are right now,” Morrow said. “We want to keep pushing forward and keep making more records and keep taking history with us.”