Girls basketball makes state playoffs for first time in 12 years

  • Junior Makenzie Caldwell goes up strong against the Atom Smashers’ defense for a bucket and one during the Lady Indians’ loss to Johnson Savannah this past weekend.
    Junior Makenzie Caldwell goes up strong against the Atom Smashers’ defense for a bucket and one during the Lady Indians’ loss to Johnson Savannah this past weekend.
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The LCHS varsity girls basketball team, whose season was given new life after it received an at-large bid into the GHSA Girls Basketball State Playoffs, made the most of the program’s first appearance in the State Playoffs in 12 years when they battled it out with number one seed and defending State Champion Johnson Savannah on the road on Friday, Feb. 14.
The Lady Indians showed poise, passion and fight when they stepped onto the court to take on the Atom Smashers, a squad that had been ranked in the top three in state for the majority of the 2019-2020 regular season.
The contest started off with Lumpkin point guard Isabel Davenport dropping a three-pointer to give the Lady Indians an early advantage. The Atom Smashers answered back with a layup, but Davenport dropped another three to extend the Lady Indians’ lead to 6-2.
Lumpkin led for the majority of the first quarter of play, but Johnson Savannah’s offense heated up towards the end of the quarter. The Atom Smashers, down 12-6, went on an 11-0 run to take a 17-12 advantage by the quarter’s end.
The athleticism of Johnson Savannah’s lineup combined with Lumpkin’s shots not falling allowed the Atom Smashers to extend their lead in the second quarter. Johnson Savannah controlled the boards on both ends of the court and rattled off an 18-7 run to take a 35-19 advantage into the halftime break.
The third quarter was almost identical to the second quarter, with the Atom Smashers going on a 19-7 run.
The Lady Indians found themselves down 54-26 headed into the final quarter of play, but the team did not let the large deficit deter them from giving an all-out effort in the fourth quarter.
Junior Makenzie Caldwell upped her intensity in the final quarter and began to disrupt the Atom Smashers’ offensive flow. Caldwell also began to aggressively attack the basket on offense. The energy became infectious and the entire lineup for the Lady Indians continued to battle it out with Johnson Savannah until the final buzzer sounded.
The two teams both scored 12 points in the forth quarter, giving Johnson Savannah a 66-38 victory.
The loss officially closed Lumpkin’s 2019-2020 season.
Davenport, who dropped four three-pointers against Johnson Savannah, led the Lady Indians’ offense in the game with 16 points.
Freshman Lexi Pierce finished the contest with 10 points, junior Caldwell contributed eight points and freshman Kate Jackson added four points in the loss.
Despite the defeat, LCHS head girls basketball coach David Dowse felt that the State Playoff experience and his team’s effort and fight were invaluable for the future of the team.
“This was a big opportunity for us,” said Dowse after the game. “That’s one of the things we talked about. It’s a gradual process. Year one we got a little bit better than the previous year. In year two, we won 17 games. And, in year three, we won 15 games with some injuries and made it to State. There is only one team that doesn’t end its season with a loss, and that’s the team that wins the State Championship. So, the loss doesn’t bother me at all. What I’m concerned with is what kind of an effort did we give. Did we back off, did we fight to the end? And, we did. We fought them tooth and nail until the end, and that’s a heck of a basketball team we played against.”
Dowse believes that being able to compete against a high level team like the Atom Smashers will have a positive impact on his young and veteran players alike.
“If you’ve got to go down in the State Playoffs, then you want to see what number one looks like. We saw what number one looks like tonight. Now, we’re going to take some time out and work towards becoming that.”
The Atom Smashers commended the Lady Indians on their fight in the contest after the game on Twitter.
“You have to be excited about the future of Lumpkin County girls basketball,” stated the tweet. “You all have a young and talented group. Your young ladies can pass it, shoot it from deep, dribble it and play posted under pressure. You all have some rising stars on your roster.”
The game marked the official end to the Lady Indians’ 2019-2020 season and the final game of lone senior Madisyn Echols’ high school career.
Echols and Dowse had an emotional exchange when the senior was subbed out late in the fourth quarter to receive an ovation from the Lumpkin faithful in attendance. With visible tears flowing down her face, the senior hugged her coach and took a seat with her teammates on the bench.
After the game, Dowse spoke of Echols’ contributions to the team this season.
“I’m so proud of Madisyn [Echols] because she’s the only senior and that’s always a really hard thing for a player. She was friends with her team, but most of her friends graduated during her junior season. For her to say my friends have moved on but I’m going to work as hard as I can and be a leader in this group and do the very best she can, which she did at last year’s banquet, that’s really all you can ask for in a player.”
The Lady Indians finished the 2019-2020 season with an overall record of 15-11 and a region record of 6-6.
With a ton of young talent moving to the high school level and all but one of this year’s team coming back next season, the future of the Lady Indians’ basketball program looks to be on the rise.