Could this be the year of the Glenn Hills Spartans in high school basketball? The signs are certainly there for both the boys and girls teams to make their marks.
The undefeated Lady Spartans (8-0, 4-0 in Region 3-AAAA) are ranked No. 2 in Georgia, behind only Westlake of Atlanta. The boys team has started a little slower at 3-3, but is coming off its third state playoff appearance in the past four years.
The Lady Spartans finished 28-3 last season but were eliminated in the second round of the state Class AAAA playoffs. The postseason is one of the last things on the mind of fourth-year Glenn Hills girls coach Bernard Bowman. He says the Spartans have their hands full with their regional opponents, and is not yet ready to think about knocking off Westlake or winning the state championship.
"Right now, all we want to do is stay focused every game," Bowman said. "Everyone we play is going to be tough. We don't expect any easy games from anybody."
The Lady Spartans have excelled despite a size disadvantage. Speed and teamwork have carried them this far.
Junior forward Marian Whitfield and sophomore center Tyhiesha Smith, both averaging about 15 points and nine rebounds a game, have led the way. Seniors Sheena Carpenter and Felecia Whitley add quickness and experience in the backcourt.
"Marian is the type of player who can do almost anything on the court," Bowman said. "She can play any position and has a super attitude. Almost all of our girls are honor students, and they transfer that to the court as well."
The boys squad also advanced to the second round of the state playoffs last season, where they ran into eventual state champion Dougherty (Albany). The Spartans lost the game by one point, after leading with 18 seconds left.
This season, Glenn Hills suffered early losses to No. 3 Statesboro, No. 10 Butler and Josey. Under the leadership of juniors Vander Thompkins and George Brown, the Spartans are expected to improve as the season progresses.
Glenn Hills' recent success on the court is a contrast to its woes on the football field, where the Spartans have won only one game in the past three years.
Richard Wallace recognizes the challenges that the school's athletic programs have faced during his 13 years as boys basketball coach.
"If we could keep players that play both (basketball and football) academically eligible, then we could excel in both sports," Wallace said. "A lot of kids could contribute to both programs. In basketball, you can get by with just a few athletes, maybe just five or six players, but not in football."
Wallace added that his players have exhibited the determination and love of the game of basketball that is necessary for success.
Reach Lane Kramer at (706) 823-3425.