Glenn Hills point guard Sheena Carpenter believed four years ago that she would be playing for a successful Lady Spartans' squad - the kind that goes 30-2 in a season, wins a Region 3-AAAA title and has a shot at winning the state's top prize.
She was in the minority with that opinion.
With the departure of former coach Mary Helen McElreath in 1998, whose teams won just seven games in her final two seasons, the Glenn Hills program was in need of a spark.
Coach Bernard Bowman and three current seniors - Carpenter, Felecia Whitley and Alicia Cowlings - provided it. Today, Bowman wants to meet Carpenter's state championship expectations.
When the Lady Spartans take on Hephzibah in the Class AAAA finals at 1:45 p.m. in the Macon Centreplex, he wants to send off the trio of seniors in style.
"It's fitting for them to go out with the opportunity to play for the state title," Bowman said. "They've really been outstanding."
Their impact wasn't immediately felt on the Glenn Hills varsity squad.
In 1998-99, Bowman's first season as head coach, the Lady Spartans went 7-12.
But something was brewing on the junior varsity team, something that would transform Glenn Hills into a state power.
"It really started with them winning the (region) JV championship their freshman and sophomore years," Bowman said. "That changed the whole mind-set of the program. Before that, Glenn Hills had never really won anything. But that first championship made them develop and grow as players."
In addition to winning their second JV title as sophomores, Carpenter, Whitley and Cowlings also helped the Lady Spartans varsity squad to a 20-10 season as 10th-graders and a 28-3 mark last season.
"It's been a big change," Whitley said. "To start off there and end up where we are now is really big. It changed the whole program a lot. It helped the inside of the program, and it changed the way people outside the program view us. When we started, people didn't have such high hopes."
Except, of course, Carpenter.
"I knew it could happen," she said. "We always had the talent. The last couple of years, we've jelled together."
And to go with the leadership of Carpenter, the 3-point shooting of Whitley and the blue-collar work ethic of Cowlings, the Lady Spartans have added junior Marian Whitfield and sophomore Tyhiesha Smith to the fold.
Now, Glenn Hills has a chance to do what Carpenter imagined four years ago.
"Before, nobody knew who we were, and nobody cared who we were," Bowman said. "The last four years, we've really made major strides. We've got the girls believing in what we're doing. Really, we've been blessed."
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