ATLANTA – It started to sink in soon after the third quarter began, when an errant pass fell into the wrong hands and created a rush the other way. It was then that Ashley Hannan, South Forsyth’s lone senior, realized she was playing in the final game of her high school career.
Competing in the Final Four of the Class AAAAAA state tournament, South fell to McEachern at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion, 64-27, bringing an end to one of the most successful season in Lady War Eagle history. McEachern will face Archer next Saturday for the state title.
As South gathered its belongings and prepared to leave the locker room for the last time in 2013-14, Gravitt had one final request for his girls: give Hannan a hug.
“Only Ashley can tell them how fast this goes by,” Gravitt said. “Before you know it, those seasons are gone.
“Before the game I asked her if she thought this is how her senior year would go. Her face lit up, and she said ‘no, coach. I never dreamed of it.’ That’s what coaching is all about.”
Sarah Myers led South with 11 points, but McEachern’s staunch defense kept the rest of the Lady War Eagles in check. Caroline Diem provided a spark off the bench with eight points, but she and Myers were the only two players on their team to hit more than one field goal.
Conversely, the trio of Te’a Cooper, Caliya Robinson and Taylor Gordon dominated for McEachern. Cooper led the bunch with 21 points; Robinson and Gordon had 16 and 12, respectively. The Lady War Eagles, undersized and overwhelmed, simply had no way to counter.
A young group, South will hope to use its impressive run this winter to lift them to new heights in 2014-15. And while the game didn't pan out in South’s favor, Gravitt doesn’t believe it takes anything away from what his team accomplished over the last few months.
“I told those girls the scoreboard wasn’t indicative of the type season we had or the type of young ladies that you are,” he said. “They’re winners. We weren’t here by accident. They earned the right to be here, and we just ran into a great basketball team.”
Hannan finished with three points and made several nice defensive plays. With the contest all but decided, she was given the chance to play the final two and a half minutes of the fourth—providing her one last chance to take it all in.
“With 2:30 left, I thought there’s nothing we could do, go have fun,” she said. “But with a minute left, it went by quick.”
Along with Gravitt, Hannan has seen South transform from a 5-22 squad in 2010-11 into one of the finest programs in the state. Perservering through several turmultuous campaigns made this one all the more sweeter for Hannan, who will now enter a chapter of her life without Lady War Eagle basketball.
“Coming from the team I played on as a freshman and sophomore, I never thought I’d be on a team like this one,” she said. “Not in a million years.
“I can’t thank those girls in the locker room enough. They always stood by me, and when times got hard, I always knew I was never by myself.”