As a former player at the school, Curtis Baptist coach Maria Swanson can get nostalgic thinking about the game and the place she loves.
As a mother, Swanson wants her daughter to remember the special moments from this season.
Swanson led the Lady Crusaders basketball team to a region championship and a GISA Class A state semifinal appearance to be named The Augusta Chronicle’s Independent Girls Basketball Coach of the Year. Curtis Baptist won a close region final and two tight games in the state playoffs.
“We couldn’t be afraid to lose. With games that close, if you were afraid to lose, you’re not going to be able to play until the end,” Swanson said. “At this point, they were like, ‘OK, we’re just going to go for it.’ They had nothing to lose and they weren’t afraid to lose. So they went for it.”
Swanson’s daughter, Kaitlin, is a player on the team. So, when Curtis Baptist won the region crown by beating Thomas Jefferson by three points, the coach wanted her players to really enjoy the moment. The 1986 Curtis Baptist graduate’s squad became masterful at winning close games late in the season, playing smart and confident to earn those moments.
The Lady Crusaders would kill time if needed by having long possessions, but they also got key baskets from leading scorer Alyssa Spurlock and others. State playoff wins against Highland Christian and David Emanuel by a combined 12 points followed before a loss to power Crisp Academy ended the season.
But Swanson, who has won at least 20 games in three of her five seasons, still saw her team peak at the right time. As her daughter returned from injury, Curtis Baptist grew tough in single-elimination formats. The Lady Crusaders strung together those consecutive wins in region and state action to complete a rebound season after they won just eight games a year ago.
“It’s like life: If you’re too afraid to even try, you’re never going to push ahead,” Swanson said. “I think that’s the biggest lesson the girls learned this year: to not be afraid to make mistakes or to lose and to just go for it.”