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Grit, determination leads to BA success

 If a group of chefs were to create the perfect recipe for a successful basketball team, here’s how it may look: A teaspoon of size in the low post, a pinch of speed on the court, two cups of team chemistry and maybe just a dash of mokie for good measure.
    As it turns out, the Bulloch Academy Lady Gators possess all the desired “ingredients” and then some. The Lady Gators (17-3, 2-0 GISA Region 2-AAA)  are attempting to repeat as GISA Class AAA state champions, but it won’t be easy.
    As defending back-to-back state champs, Bulloch Academy graduated several key starters from last year’s unit. The Lady Gators are also battling the injury bug as of late. In the past two weeks, starters Amber Robins (hyperextended knee), Mikay Sands (torn labrum) and Abby Newton (strained tendon) are fighting through some pain.
    “We’ve had three pretty severe injuries. Not anything season-threatening, but we’ve had to change a lot about the way they practice. If we don’t have to play them, we try not to. We’ve had other players who have stepped up,” Bulloch Academy girls basketball coach Paul Webb said.
    Despite the injuries, don’t expect this team to take any days off. That’s where the dash of moxie comes into play.
    “It hurts and it was tough getting used to, but I had so much adrenaline going I got through it,” said Newton when she described what her first game back from her foot injury felt like. “I try to be there for my teammates and the older players I look up to.”
    Sands, who scored 11 points in her last game out, said players like Newton is what makes this year’s team special.
    “(Lacy Robins) and Abby (Newton) are eighth graders but they don’t play like eighth graders by watching them,” Sands said. “We’re all learning to play through (injuries) and we want to win for each other. There’s no selfishness on this team, which is good. I want to win it for Abby just as much as she wants to win it for me. We try to win for the next person and that’s what’s good about our team.
“It helps a lot when you’re playing through pain and you know that your teammates are there for you and you’re there for them.”
    Down the stretch, coach Webb said the most important aspect of this team will be their chemistry moving forward.
    Bulloch Academy has seven games left before the start of the region tournament, beginning Feb. 16.
    “We work really hard on trying to develop a team concept and not just basketball skill,” Webb said. “(Team chemistry) is the most critical point. You can have the most skilled players, but if they don’t play together or care about each other it won’t work. They don’t want to let each other down.”
    It’s not just the starters who are contributing to the Lady Gators’ success. The role players on this year’s team have been a vital piece of the pie.
    Mattie Wynn Hendrix gives Bulloch Academy valuable minutes and is described as a “defensive specialist” by her teammates.
    “She can get out there against their best player and shut them down,” Sands said.
    The Lady Gators are scheduled to face Trinity on the road today in a region matchup. With any luck, Bulloch Academy will continue its win streak and implement their recipe for success.

    Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.