The Lady Patriots knew there would be progress.
The only question was when the huge step would happen.
“I didn’t know when it was coming, but I knew it would,” junior guard Christina Thomas said.
After struggling through losing seasons, the Westside girls basketball team improved to 13-9 last season before taking a big leap forward to 27-4 this year.
By having the most successful season in program history, Westside has reached the Class AAA state semifinals, where the Lady Patriots play powerhouse Columbia at 7 p.m. Friday in Macon.
Senior Telissa Mills gives much of the credit to coach Ivory Hugee, who’s working on building a program, not just one great season.
“He’s like a mentor, a father figure,” Mills said.
With Hugee, Westside is founded on commitment and hard work, two factors that have the upstart Lady Patriots set to compete against a program that was a state champion in 2010 and a semifinalist in 2011.
Hugee expects to see a deep Lady Eagles team, one ready to use pressure to win.
But the Westside guards head to Macon knowing they get help from the leadership and strength on the inside.
Post players Azia Gibson and Ritzy Griffin are both listed as at least 6-feet tall, providing the guards with a large target.
The two stars also attack the glass, leading to made baskets and offensive rebounds.
“If I miss it, they’re going up for a putback,” Thomas said.
The combination of solid guard play and post play has helped Westside win 21 of its past 24 games, a stretch that included a 10-0 mark in subregion play.
The only loss during this run came to Washington County, the defending state champion who’s back in the semifinals, in the Region 3-AAA Tournament final.
Although Westside has its hands full with Columbia – Hugee chuckled when he said no one was giving his team a chance against the Lady Eagles – the Lady Patriots have come a long way.
“This is a blessing, for us to be in the final four. But this team earned its way,” Hugee said. “It’s new territory, but we’re excited.”