Tuesday July 23rd, 2024 10:13AM

Girls basketball: Lumpkin County looks for second-straight state title

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor

DAHLONEGA, Ga. — The key to another Lumpkin County girls state basketball championship might be in the pregame meal. 

Chick-Fil-A has been the go-to pregame feast for this tight-knit group of Lady Indians. Is the eight-nugget meal or the always stellar go-to of the No. 1 that fuels them to another 30-point win? 

As star guard Lexi Pierce says, “everybody gets something different every time.” 

If that’s the key to winning their second straight Class 3A state championship on Friday, then “Eat More Chicken.” 

“We just get our usual,” she says. “There are a lot of different options that everyone gets.” 

Of course, it’s just one thing they do before the game that is considered a tradition. The other is a prayer at center court before tip-off. 

Pierce says they huddle up to ask God to keep them safe from injury and help guide them through the game. 

“We also want to let God know that everything we do is from Him,” she said.  

But chasing championships is nothing new for these Lady Indians, especially for Pierce, Averie Jones, Mary Mullinax, Kate Jackson and Ciera Brooks. It’s actually become a habit, and so has winning a few trophies along the way. Dating back to their park and rec titles, middle school titles, and last year’s Class 3A state championship, Pierce, Jones, Mullinax, Jackson and Brooks have built a pretty impressive resume. 

However, none of the success came without a lot of hard work, trust in each other, and probably the most important ingredient: friendship. 

“We’re all best friends,” Pierce said. “Every Sunday, we come in and shoot. We train together. We push each other. We make each other better. We’re literally together all the time. That has helped us in the long run, and we’ve been doing this since we were little.” 

The Lady Indians' strong team chemistry has been the backbone of this season’s success. Of course, there have been ups and downs, mainly against region foe Wesleyan. In the three meetings this season, the Lady Indians lost two of them, including the Region 7-3A title game.  

Pierce said that the region title loss to Wesleyan was a wake-up call. 

“I definitely think it was,” she said. “We didn’t play our best against Wesleyan, and after that game, we all just realized that it was either win or go home. We weren’t going home.” 

The Lady Indians have roared through the Class 3A playoffs since that 62-52 loss to Wesleyan on February 18, playing all but one game on the road — a much different path than last season. 

Lumpkin County has beaten their opponents by an average of 30.3 points per game — Hebron is the only team with a larger win margin — 36.8 ppg. 

Although the Lady Indians have burned a lot of gasoline and travel time in the playoffs this year, Pierce believes playing on the road has made them stronger. 

“I definitely think going on the road, driving really far away, has made us stronger,” she said. “I think it’s helped us a lot.” 

The road trip ends in the Class 3A state title game in Macon on Friday as the road-tested Lady Indians will attempt to make history again and look to defend their 2022 Class 3A championship against a stout Hebron Christian Academy team. Game time is set for 1 p.m.

It also will mark the final time this group of Lady Indians, that have won 96 games in high school, are on the court together, putting a period on this historic run. Pierce says it’s going to be bittersweet.

“It’s always been business for us,” Pierce said. “But it is our last ride together, and it’s going to hit us really hard when it’s over. But we won’t let that get in the way of the game.

“We’ve won championships together since we were little. It’s something we’ve always dreamed of. We won it last year, so I don’t know if I can put into words what it would be like to win the championship in our last ride together this year. It would be the best … amazing for all of us.”

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