As the GISA Class AAA get underway tonight, it’s plain to see that the Lady Gators of Bulloch Academy should be considered a favorite to bring home a title.
The Gators blazed a trail through the regular season, putting up a 27-1 record. Two more victories in the Region 4-IAAA tournament last week claimed Bulloch’s third consecutive region championship and a No. 1 seed entering state tournament play.
Tonight, the Gators travel up to Tattnall Square Academy in Macon to take on Brookwood (13-9), the No. 4 seed out of Region 3.
“We’re definitely happy to have a top seed again,” BA coach Paul Webb said. “We still have to play well though. Brookwood has had to deal with a lot of injuries this year, but they’re a solid team.”
Madeline Herrer leads the Lady Warriors as a gunner from the wing, but Brookwood will have its hands full with the depth of talent that Bulloch brings to the table.
From the frontcourt to the backcourt and all the way down the bench, the Gators have found contributions from their entire squad throughout the season.
Veterans like Ashley Burke, Pate Lomax and Chelsea Oglesby have paced the attack while a total of seven different Gators have led the team in points in at least one game this season.
That kind of production is easy to account for with Bulloch’s nine juniors and seniors on the roster. The real trick is that Bulloch has been able to replicate this kind of success year in and year out, regardless of what seniors have left.
This is the third consecutive season in which the Gators have set a new single-season wins record for the school.
“We have a lot of maturity on our teams,” Webb said. “We don’t have bad days at practice and everyone is always pushing each other. Our feeder programs are a big help as well. By the time we call on girls on the varsity team, they’ve been producing in the same system for years already.”
Webb credits his team’s dedication for all of the success, but also passed a personal milestone.
Bulloch’s win over Pinewood in the region championship game last week marked the 500th career victory in Webb’s 26-year coaching career.
To record 500 wins is a rare feat. Rarer still is how Webb has done it.
Some coaches find success early on and ride out their careers at one school. Others rack up handfuls of wins throughout multiple stops.
As for Webb, he built up a dominant program at Statesboro High, then turned around and duplicated the success at Bulloch Academy.
“The real credit goes to the girls and coaches I’ve worked with over the years,” Webb said. “All that 500 wins really tells me is that I’m getting old. Honestly, the best part has been all of the calls I’ve received from players and coaches over the last few days. That’s really special to me.”
Now that one piece of history is in the books, Webb will try to coach his team towards more.
Despite their top seed and gaudy record, the Gators still face plenty of challenges. Not only will they have to make the long trek to Macon for the duration of their stay in the playoffs, they also have, potentially, the toughest road to a championship of any top seed.
“I think that there are probably five teams with a great shot of winning it all,” Webb said. “I think we’re one of those five, and we might have to play three of the others.”
With a win tonight, the Gators could have a chance to avenge their only defeat of the season. The winner of tonight’s game will play either Trinity Christian or Tattnall Square — which downed the Gators at their holiday tournament in December.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.