FLOWERY BRANCH — The Flowery Branch girls basketball team has persevered through many obstacles this season.
But the Lady Falcons (14-14, Region 8-4A No. 2 seed) didn't throw in the towel through the many ups and downs of the 2020-21 season. They lost star player Ashlee Locke to COVID-19 contact tracing twice and went 25 days without her. It also led to a 6-12 start to the season.
The buzz wasn't good for the Lady Falcons. As Locke said, "everybody was doubting us."
But Locke came back, and the Lady Falcons began to jell again. As a matter of fact, Branch has won the last 8 out of 10 games, including runner-up in Region 8-4A. They're also sitting in a position no one would have thought two months ago: the Class 4A quarterfinals.
"Everything that we have been through has made us come closer as a team," Locke said. "Our first game back after being in quarantine, we kind of struggled a little bit. Nobody knows what people are going through behind the scenes and so, for us, just being able to be there for each other at all times and show each other that we love each other was huge."
Head Coach Courtney Newton-Gonzalez points back to the loss before the Jefferson make-up game on Jan. 30 -- a 43-39 loss to North Oconee -- as a "light-bulb moment" for the team. It's when things started coming together. The Lady Falcons beat then-No. 1 ranked Jefferson the following day, 46-40, at home.
"We had lost a tough game the night before and then came back and had to play Jefferson that next day," she said. "Really that day is when it clicked with them. That day was a big point in our season and since then, they've really been locked in."
The Lady Falcons will play host to Troup County in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Game time is set for 6 p.m.
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