Glenn Hills had a 31-2 record and won its first state basketball championship last season. The Lady Spartans return two of the top players in the state this season, so the question posed last week to coach Bernard Bowman was fairly obvious.
With all that it accomplished last year and with the potential of this year's Glenn Hills squad, how can the team expect not to develop swollen heads - the symptom of a potentially fatal overconfidence disease?
For Bowman, the answer is simple: All the Lady Spartans have to do is think to the immediate past.
"Four years ago, nobody knew about us, and nobody cared what we did," said Bowman, whose team went 7-12 four seasons ago. "We know success is not guaranteed.
"I'm the only one left who knows what (7-12) feels like. Most knew this program wasn't the best, because they were in elementary and middle school. I tell them, 'You can't take anything granted."'
Even with that knowledge, if the Lady Spartans fall short of another Class AAAA championship - they beat Hephzibah 66-46 last season to claim the title - this season likely will be considered a disappointment.
That assessment won't ease the pressure.
"I've been talking to them about staying focused," Bowman said. "This year will be tougher than last year. This is the first year we've ever had to defend it, so you have to come out and play every night. That's what I've stressed to them."
At this point, the Lady Spartans should know about stress and how to deal with it.
Despite losing three seniors to graduation - including point guard Sheena Carpenter - the core of last year's squad returns, including All-State guard Marian Whitfield and All-State center and forward Tyhiesha Smith. The two combined to average 31 points and 19 rebounds per game last season.
"It'll be hard to defend the title," Smith said. "Everybody will be trying their best to beat us every time we play."
In other words, the Lady Spartans - the preseason No. 1 in Class AAAA - have become the hunted.
Beyond Whitfield and Smith, the Lady Spartans have a little more depth.
Reyna Flemmings and Shequita Williams will provide support at forward, and Keoshia Worthy, who transferred from Westside this year, will take over at point guard.
"Keoshia's already adjusted to us," Smith said. "We already knew her as a person. She came, and she just fit in. She's a part of the family."
Worthy will be one of the key leaders trying to keep the Lady Spartans grounded.
"We felt blessed to win the state championship," Whitfield said. "We don't go out thinking we'll have big heads. We just don't do that."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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