Red-hot, team-first Lady Wildcats playing with renewed purpose [VIDEO]

When Rabun County walked off the court against Commerce on January 27, it marked a 12th straight victory for the Lady Wildcats. It’s just the latest success for the #2-ranked team in the state, who is now 20-1 overall and 5-0 in region play. Just a few days prior, the team took on defending state champions Elbert County, and earned a solid 55-49 win to send a clear message to the entire state.

“We really showed them that even though we have a completely new team, we’re ready to fight,” says senior guard Trea Blalock. “We’re going to focus in and do our best.”

It wasn’t just that Elbert was the reigning state champions who returned literally their entire roster, but that title game last year came against Rabun County. The Lady Cats haven’t forgotten that feeling, and it’s likely a culprit for the hot start we’re seeing this year.

“I know for me personally, I’m still not over that game yet,” says coach DeeDee Dillard. “We felt we had an opportunity to do something that had never been done at this school, and for me, it’s given me renewed purpose and energy.”

The team feels that being that close has helped fuel the 2022-23 season.

“I think it’s definitely given us momentum for sure,” says junior guard Lucy Hood, who is the lone starter from last year’s state runner-up team. “We kind of have a whole new team coming in…still having that same goal motivates us.”

Hood and fellow junior Ellie Southards have been two of the standouts for Rabun County. Southards missed all of last season due to an ACL injury, and was forced to sit the bench despite originally being counted as a starter going into last year.

“Sitting on the bench was really hard for me,” says Sullards, who all her playing career has been a starter. “God really helped me through everything, and my team was always there for me no matter what.

The silver lining to her injury is the fresh perspective she has now.

“I had all my worth in basketball, but ultimately I found my worth in God and what He helped me through,” Sullards adds.

Hood, Sullards, Blalock, and others such as Mili Watts, Mary Lovell, and Jaycie McCall all have been solid this season, among others.

No doubt, there’s something special about this version of Rabun County.

“They just want to win,” says Dillard. “That’s what you see when you watch them play. Of any team I’ve coached, this might be the most team-first mindset that we’ve had.”

The lone slip-up in 2022-23 came at Banks County in late December, when the now #2-ranked Lady Leopards (Class 2A) won by about 30 points despite Rabun beating them earlier in the season by 15. Since then, the Lady Cats have been dominant.

“We don’t let one win or loss define our season,” states Dillard. “We knew we couldn’t let that be a setback. It reminded us that if you’re not ready to play on any given night, you can get beat.”

Lesson learned. Rabun has won 12 in a row heading into their February 3 game against Athens Christian.

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