Lori Hines just concluded her 15th season as head girls basketball coach at George Walton Academy. And what a fitting conclusion it was.
With a 37-27 win over Brookstone at the Mercer University in Macon last Friday, the Lady Bulldogs claimed the Georgia Independent Athletic Association state championship. It was the first for the longtime Bulldogs coach, who is closing fast on 400 career coaching victories (she has 340, with 242 coming at GWA).
For a while, I wondered if she’d make it past her first season.
I still remember her first game patrolling the sidelines at the Nicholson Center. Here was this tall, gangly woman, dressed to the hilt, pacing the count in front the bench, barking instructions, coaxing every ounce of energy and effort out of her charges.
This went on for the entire game. The Lady Bulldogs lost, as they would 14 more times to conclude the season at 12-15.
Practices were, by all accounts, torturous. There was little downtime, no loafing, complete focus demanded.
If she doesn’t start winning soon, I thought, she’ll wear out her welcome fast.
Fortunately, she did start winning. GWA joined the Georgia High School Association in 2010 and proceeded to win 96 games over their first four seasons, including a 30-game regular season winning streak.
For Hines, those four years were the result of the perfect storm of high expectations set by a demanding coach and an über-talented roster. Three players from those successful squads went on to play college, including all-state post Ivy-Atkism, who started at Clemson as a freshman.
Unfortunately, the post-season wasn’t kind to that bunch. If it weren’t for Southwest Atlanta Christian, who knocked GWA out of the tournament three years
running, Hines might already have her championship.
Instead, she had to wait another decade to realize the dream. That the clincher was such a low-scoring affair was only right.
Hine’s teams are usually fair-to-good offensively. But their calling card has always been suffocating defense. During that aforementioned run, the Lady Bulldogs usually pressed the entire game, which led to most of their points.
This year’s squad averaged a respectable 49 points a game. But they allowed just 36. They held Brookstone nine less than that, which was 20 points below its season average.
Are the Bulldogs set up for another long run of excellence. All signs point to yes.
This year’s roster featured just one senior. The team’s two leading scores were sophomores. Of the 14 girls on the varsity, four were freshmen and another an eighth grader.
Like those earlier squads, the Lady Bulldogs had size, speed, and some impressive shooters. And, not surprisingly, they were relentless on defense.
It might have taken Hines 15 years to get her first title at GWA. Something tells me it won’t take quite as long to get the next one.
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