Campbell Girls Ready For Final Four
Winners of 18 of their last 20, the Lady Spartans are set to take on Norcross this afternoon in the Class AAAAA state semifinals.
There haven’t been a whole of state championships teams to celebrate at Campbell High, at least not many that people remember.
A plaque at the baseball field honors the 1958 state title team. At Wills Gymnasium, banners hang honoring the boys’ basketball state titlists from the 1980s from both Campbell (1981-82) and Wills (1985-86).
And since those two schools merged in 1990, Campbell officials can recall the girls slow-pitch softball team winning a title in the early ‘90s, and last year in track, the girls 4x400 relay team won state.
And now a new group of young student-athletes is two games and less than two days away from bringing the school its first team sport state title in almost two decades.
The first step comes this afternoon in the Georgia High School Association’s Class AAAAA state semifinals when the Campbell girls basketball team faces a formidable foe in Norcross High. Tipoff between the Lady Spartans (25-6) and the Lady Blue Devils (27-3) is set for 4 p.m. at the Arena at Gwinnett.
If you are going to be at the game, share your photos with your friends and neighbors by sending them to Smyrna-Vinings Patch. If you’re not going to attend, Georgia Public Broadcasting will be streaming the game live here.
“We’re happy to be at this point, but we’re not satisfied,’’ said Campbell coach Randy McClure. “We want to play our best basketball and we haven’t done that yet. We’ve hopefully got two more chances to show that we can.’’
The winner of tonight’s game will play for the championship Friday night in Gwinnett at 7 p.m. It could be an all Region 4-AAAAA final as McEachern (24-6) faces Mill Creek (18-13) in tonight's second semifinal at 7.
The Lady Spartans have been rolling and have won 18 of their last 20 games following their Saturday elite eight win over North Cobb, the only team to have defeated Campbell since late December.
Avenging those two losses to the Lady Warriors should help the Lady Spartans psyche as they prepare to face a Norcross team that eliminated the Lady Spartans in the quarterfinals last year.
In that game, Campbell led by a point early in the fourth quarter, but watched as the Lady Blue Devils converted 15 of 19 free throws down the stretch to score a 65-54 win.
“We had a couple of plays here and there where we could’ve extended the lead and we didn’t,’’ McClure said. “We didn’t make good decisions; we didn’t play smart.''
A year older and a year wiser, McClure hopes his veteran-led team will be up for the challenge against a taller Norcross team (six players stand at least 6-foot-1) that is limiting its opponents to just 39.1 points per game.
“Last year, we didn’t make enough stops, we didn’t rebound and we didn’t do the little things,’’ said post player Angel Foster, one of four seniors in the Campbell starting lineup. “Hopefully we’ve learned from that."
Joining Foster in the paint is fellow senior Jalessea Phillips, while junior point guard Baylee Hawkins has been steady all season long handling the basketball and scoring when needed. But if the Lady Spartans are going to advance to Friday's title game, they’ll need for their two college signee guards – Erica Norwood (Air Force Academy) and Chakecia Miller (George Washington) – to come up big this afternoon.
The latter injured her ankle in the quarterfinal victory over North Cobb, but the Campbell coach said Miller will be ready to go today, adding that, “Kisha at 60 percent is better than most at 100 percent.’’
The Lady Spartans will no doubt face a lot of zone defense against the taller Lady Blue Devils, but Campbell’s game is about quickness and hustle, forcing turnovers and turning those opponent mistakes into transition hoops.
“We’re grateful to be in the situation we’re in,’’ McClure said. “We know this is good team we’re facing and that this will be battle. That’s what you expect at this stage.''