Habersham’s 5-1 start is impressive, no doubt. Through just six games in November, the Lady Raiders’ five victories are half as many as they had all of last season.
Despite the impressive start, coach John Hood (8th season) knows that the bigger picture would be making it back to the state tournament for the first time since 2011-12, when the Lady Raiders, fresh off a region championship, advanced to the Sweet 16 and fell on a buzzer-beater, being just seconds away from an Elite 8 trip.
Leading the way is four-year starter Lainey Gosnell, who is now 41 points shy of breaking former Lady Raider star Haley Gerrin’s scoring record. Gosnell also has a shot, although it will be tough, to reach 2,000 career points.
So far, Habersham’s quick start bodes very promising, with the lone blemish a controversial two-point loss to Chestatee.
“We’re off to a good start,” says Hood. “We still need a lot of work fundamentally. We’re excited to be 5-1 and off to a good start.”
Gosnell is one of seven seniors, and has committed to play collegiate ball at Appalachian State. The team is loaded with experience and know what to expect.
“We have a lot of seniors, and our seniors are very mature,” says Hood. “They had an attitude in that [Chestatee] game when we got down by 19 that they just refused to give up. In the past, maybe we would’ve given up. It was the best second half we’ve played in the past six or seven years.
Gosnell echoes Hood, but is looking forward to a December 2 rematch against Chestatee.
“Getting one loss out of the way – the pressure is gone,” says Gosnell. “We’ve been preparing pretty hard at practice to get another chance at them, and hoping to get a win this time.”
The Lady Raiders are in a better spot than they have been in the past four years while moving into Region 8-AAAAAA this year. It marks the fourth different region in six years for the school.
“We feel very at home [in 8-AAAAAA],” says Hood. “We like being in the new region, playing only 10 region games as opposed to 18. What was bad about the old region was we had to open up with a region game and play 18-20 region games.”
The new region, as Hood explains, allows the Lady Raiders more focus to be applied in the first half of the year to get better and fine-tune as opposed to facing early stress in region games.
“This year we’re playing a lot of non-region games early and at Christmas we’re going to do something we haven’t done in awhile – give the girls some time off,” exclaims Hood. “We think that will get them rejuvenated physically and mentally.”
That break should pave the way to a strong finish and second half for the Lady Raiders. Again, the goal here is to get back where they belong – in the state tournament.
“We get better each game,” says Gosnell, “and I think [making state] would be a great accomplishment after all the hard work we put into it.”