David Dowse’s “Great Eight” is writing history over at Lumpkin County. To Dowse’s knowledge, the banner hanging in the gym for the 1991 region championship team might just be the last time the Lady Indians basketball team made the state playoffs.
A program that went 34-169 from the 2009-10 – 2016-17 season never won more than 7 games in a single season. However, since Dowse came to Lumpkin prior to last season, the girls won 9 games last year and already 15 this season.
“We could see the progress, and now we’re reaping the benefits of our labor,” says Dowse. “When I got the job, we talked about changing culture…I believe very strongly that our culture has changed here.”
“My freshman and sophomore year, we didn’t really have any structure,” says senior forward Mackenzie Pulley, a vital four-year player in the program. “We just went with the flow. Once coach Dowse came, it changed. We’re much more invested than we used to be.”
Indeed, it’s been an unforgettable year so far, which has consisted of a couple of tournament championships, a top-ten state ranking, and a 9-0 start to the season.
The “Great Eight” refers to the eight girls that suit up – a very small number that creates potential problems with depth and if the team gets in foul trouble.
“I was just sitting around one day..trying to come up with a yearly motto, and figured it had to revolve around the fact that we had so few numbers,” says Dowse. “I sent [“Great 8″] out to the group, and it kind of just stuck.”
Among the highs this season for Lumpkin has included winning the prestigious “Battle of the States Tournament” in Hiawassee, as the girls beat a Murphy (NC) team that beat them handily a year ago and even as recently as this summer.
“One of our goals was to win a tournament,” says sophomore guard Isabel Davenport. “We won our Thanksgiving Tournament, and that was just building on that. [The BOTS] was a big win for us.”
While the 15-5 season has had more highs than lows, a few of the losses were hard to swallow, especially falling to state-ranked rivals Dawson County in overtime, and narrow losses to state-ranked GAC and North Hall. The Lady Indians, however, make it a point to have a short-term memory.
“We can’t really stay living in the past,” says Pulley, who says the Dawson loss stings the most. “Obviously there are things we could have done better those nights, but we just come to practice the next day and go harder.”
Pulley leads the team in field goal percentage (51%), points (16.5), rebounds (6.4), blocks (2.0), and tied in assists (3.0). Davenport averages 15.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.4 steals per contest as well, and is shooting 42% from 3-point range.
As far as all the hype surrounding the Great Eight, it’s certainly not complete until the team makes the inevitable playoff run.
“It’s definitely a goal of ours,” says Dowse. “I want it for [the girls]. I want them to understand that regardless of where you start, if you will work toward a goal – be relentless toward that goal – that anything is achievable. And I think they believe that, and in the end, I just want that for them.”