Students and faculty at Dawson County High School were nearly drowning in excitement Monday, following the Class AAA semifinals in Savannah, where the Lady Tigers defeated Southwest Macon, 66-50, clinching their place in the state finals.
The last time the girls squad was this close was 1992, when they were contenders in the Final Four.
This Saturday at 3 p.m., the Lady Tigers will unleash their excitement on the floor of the Macon Centreplex Coliseum as they take on St. Pius X for the girls AAA State Championship title.
And, according to many, this squad is not heading south alone they are bringing most of the county with them.
When I got to Savannah the other night, I was looking up in the stands and saw that we had more people than anyone, said School Superintendent Keith Porter. It just reiterated how supportive our fans are. It gives us an advantage, and its also something that sort of galvanizes our community when something like this happens.
Porter is a former DCHS basketball player and coach.
DCHS Principal Dr. Jute Wilson said the girls success has flooded the halls and classrooms.
Whenever we have success outside of this building, it directly carries into the classroom, he said. These kids have all grown up together, and most of them played recreation ball together. That really helps the chemistry because when the fans come to the games, they are cheering for Dawson County kids. That absolutely makes it better.
The girls advancement to the state championship has brought a sense of unity to the entire student body.
Harrison Adams is a freshman wrestler for DCHS.
I know its a big deal when you have the community come out and support you, and it does make a difference, he said. When we are cheering for our team, it intimidates the other team, and it gives our team the mental edge over them to win.
Adams said the girls success fires up the other athletic teams. It will give us more encouragement to do better, he said.
Reagan Millholland, a sophomore and a DCHS competition cheerleader, said she felt the girls victory is an example of how successful the entire DCHS athletic program has become.
I think that we used to be so out of it in sports, and they werent a big deal, she said. But now, our teams are so much better, so our sports are getting to be a much bigger deal. And we live in a close community and our school is so small that it makes it even more special.
Jade Perry is a senior at DCHS and a soccer player for the girls team, which currently ranks fourth in the state. She said she is really proud of the Lady Tigers.
I still remember the excitement and pride in us making it to the Elite Eight in soccer last year, she said. For them to make it all the way to the state championships is huge. Its like the small-town underdog story like you would see on TV.
Hannah Porter, a senior Lady Tigers player, said there is only one explanation for the teams achievement.
There were so many little pieces that just came together, she said. And the Big Man upstairs definitely took care of that for us.
This team is basically family. Weve been playing together since we were like 5. Its so much more work than just meeting up for four years in high school. Im glad that we were finally able to go to state and have a winning season.
Porters mother, Tanya, played on the 1992 Lady Tigers team that made it to the Final Four a team coached by Steve Sweat.
For her, the excitement is especially sweet.
You just dont get our communitys atmosphere everywhere, she said. I am so glad Dawson County hasnt lost that. With all of the changes and the growing weve done in 20 years, Im glad that this is what weve held on to.
Its a huge thing and an awesome tradition. I am glad to see that we still rally behind our teams.
But, perhaps no one is as overcome with excitement as Steve Sweat, head coach of the Lady Tigers.
Its a joy that gives people something to look forward to, he said. Theres a buzz about the whole place. The monkeys off our back, finally. We missed it a couple of years ago by one game and that one-game deal was getting old.
Now, we are able to get in, and its just unbelievable how people come together when you got something like this going on. Im just glad to be a part of whats going on. And I really mean that from the bottom of my heart.