The season for the star player and the team had followed pretty close to the script – 20 points per game, region title contention, another state tournament appearance. In Sarah Myers’ mind, a win or two in the playoffs would be nice, a preview for next season’s breakthrough when she and a bevy of talent would return and stake their claim as true threats.
The script got a twist. One win, then a second (in overtime), then a third, and it was in the flurry of those three games, three thrilling 32-minute (or more) episodic rides of basketball history, that South Forsyth girls basketball coach Keith Gravitt saw his star player reach a new level of focus and resolve.
Between the first round blow-out of South Gwinnett, the overtime gut-wrencher at defending state champion Norcross and the nail-biter against Parkview, Myers went 24 of 25 from the free throw line, half of which came in the fourth quarters or overtime.
"I think you look directly at those free throws that she made in the first three rounds to tell you where she was performing at that time," Gravitt said. "That’s what great players do."
And so it became official this season: Sarah Myers, the Forsyth County News’ 2013-14 Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year, is a great basketball player.
The 5-feet-11 guard averaged 20.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 2.7 assists per game in leading South to the Class AAAAAA Final Four, the first such appearance by a Forsyth County girls’ team since 1970.
"Knowing how young we were but how talented we were, I knew we were going to have a great season," Myers said. "I thought this is just going to be the foreground for next season, but it even surpassed what I imagined."
Perhaps the expectations began the day after South’s loss to eventual state champion Norcross in the first round of the state tournament, for the Lady War Eagles knew that Myers and the rest of the team’s core would be back. Perhaps the hype grew July 3, 2013, when Myers verbally committed to the University of Maryland and junior Ally Welch committed to Mercer.
Myers had already proved her impact last season when as a freshman she averaged over 18 points a game and helped the Lady War Eagles end a 12-year drought from the state tournament.
But Myers had two advantages – opponents knew little about her game, and the team had leaders already in place, particularly Myers’ sister, Rachel.
It gave Sarah the luxury to observe and absorb. Her play helped South transform into a state tournament-caliber team. Meanwhile, she watched Rachel say the right things and push the right buttons to help the Lady War Eagles reach their potential.
"Being able to be around her all the time and learning from her really helped," Sarah said.
She leaned on those lessons this season. As her scoring increased and South’s wins piled up, Sarah said she felt teammates look toward her more often.
She needed to be a leader, whether she was ready or not, but she was. Her dad had made sure of that ever since he started coaching her as a young girl.
"He’s always seen that in me," Sarah said. "He’s definitely pushed me. He pushes me past my limits. He believes in me more than anyone. So he’s always pushed me to be that leader and be the best person I can be."
"A leader has to take on a lot of different qualities," Gravitt said, "and sometimes through maturity, play or relationship-building with teammates leaders find their way. I think she did some of that this year."
So Myers pushed herself and the Lady War Eagles to reach the Region 6-AAAAAA tournament finals, get revenge against Norcross, out-last Parkview and put county basketball center stage for the first time in 40 years.
"It was a season full of memories," Myers said. "New things that a lot of girls never experienced before, that the school hadn’t even accomplished. It’s just something that we should all be proud of.
"Not many regrets out there on the court because we put everything out there every night."