Making the Elite 8 may be a great accomplishment, but for one of the state’s top girls basketball programs, they’re hungry for more.
Rabun County has it all going for it right now. In the midst of a six-game win streak, the Lady Wildcats are not just beating the competition – they are destroying their opponents. And it’s not even close. With just one loss on the resume this season, the Lady Cats have eight wins, with the closest margin of victory an eight-point game.
The average margin of victory for this Rabun team is 26.8 points. The AVERAGE. The blowout wins include a 34-point win versus East Hall, a 39-point win over Walhalla and a 36-point victory over annual powerhouse and former 2A rivals Union County. The best is the most recent, however…a 46-point demolishing of Stephens County.
“I think it makes my job a little harder,” reasons head coach DeeDee Dillard. “You don’t know – you don’t know how good you are. Is it the level of competition you’re playing? Or is it because you’re executing really well? I try to keep my girls grounded – we watch a lot of film…we point out areas that we’re going to have to improve in if we want to make a deep playoff run.”
The lone blemish was a 67-60 loss to Lakeview Academy, the #8-ranked team among 1A public schools in Georgia. The 8-1 start for the Lady Cats, though, has them ranked #2 in 2A basketball, according to MaxPreps.
Although no stranger to great starts, Dillard and the Lady Cats remain humble and live by a Rabun County philosophy of not getting complacent and looking back at what they have accomplished. That’s no easy chore, especially when you have the type of track record that Dillard has in her 11 seasons at Rabun. In the past 10 seasons, she’s led the Lady Cats to the state playoffs nine times. Getting there isn’t enough though – they go to state with a drive to go deep.
Dillard’s resume includes four Elite 8 runs (’08-’09, ’09-’10, ’10-’11, ’15-’16) and two Sweet 16 trips (’12-’13, ’13-’14) with the other three trips ending in the opening round. With over 200 career coaching wins for Dillard, Rabun has also nabbed six region championships and five 20-win seasons, including four times winning 25 or more.
“[A deep state playoff run] is obviously the goal,” exclaims Dillard. “Winning region again and making a playoff run. We really would like to get past that Elite 8 hump though.”
The four seniors, including Scott, have the same lofty goals this season, echoing coach Dillard.
“Well last year we made it to the Elite 8,” states senior guard Savanna Scott. “That was a huge accomplishment, but we want to go to the Final Four and hopefully to the [State] Championship. It would mean so much to our community”
What makes Rabun such a dangerous team is that, although led by Scott, fresh off scoring her 1,000th career point, any girl on the team can step up any given night should Scott be held in check.
“This year alone, we’ve had eight different girls score in double-digits,” says Dillard. “It puts more pressure on the opposing team. Any given night, we have a number of girls that can have a big game, even if they shut Savanna down.”
It’s not by chance that Rabun continues to have this type of success, despite every year facing turnover that usually includes a great senior class and big-time play-makers. Unlike many other programs, Dillard is able to “plug-n-play” the next group, who are ready to write their own legacy.
“I’ve been super proud of how my seniors have led,” adds Dillard. “They’ve done a remarkable job getting our younger kids confident and ready to play. I tend to put a lot of responsibility on my seniors. They’re involved in February of their junior year [making big decisions] and they invest in the lives of our younger kids. I’ve never had a senior class that didn’t do a good job at that.”
The Lady Wildcats open region play December 16 at Oglethorpe, and play two more games before taking a break for Christmas.