Exit Interview: Dowse, Lady Indians leave it all on the court [VIDEO]
It’s the end of an era at Lumpkin County. David Dowse exited the court in Macon along with star seniors Mary Mullinax, Lexi Pierce, and Kate Jackson after a loss in the State Championship game to Hebron Christian. Days later, Dowse officially retired, and the standout trio had played for the last time. Having won the title last year and returned all 5 starters — which includes juniors Averie Jones and Ciera Brooks — the Lady Indians played with a bullseye on their back all season. They can now close the book knowing they left it all on the court.
“There are a lot of different emotions,” Dowse says of the final moments in the state title game. Along with dealing with his wife being in the hospital all week, the highs and lows of the game itself, and the fact that it would be his and his seniors’ final game, it was a lot to shoulder.
“I could see that the girls were upset. I did not want them to feel like they had been anything short of amazing. There was disappointment in the loss, but I didn’t want that to take over their minds.”
As the game was secured early in the fourth, Dowse called some late timeouts to get his girls a message – to play like they always had and everything was ok.
“Our hearts break that we didn’t win the state championship,” admits Mullinax. “But ultimately the reason why we got back to the state championship wasn’t just because of our basketball skills, but because of our relationship with each other. That’s a big reason why we are who we are.”
The oneness that Mullinax and Dowse elude to is the thread of their annual mantra, or slogan. This year’s motto – SAQUU, which was an integral part of the DNA of the Lady Indians.
“It means ‘one’ in Cherokee,” says Pierce. “Lumpkin County was once a Cherokee territory. For us it’s ‘one team, one together,’ and we do everything together…just one.”
The ending wasn’t exactly what the girls wanted, but a Runner-Up finish the year after winning it all, and adding in a trio of region titles, #1 rankings, and Final Four runs (3 of each of those), and it’s been nothing short of magical. But the magic isn’t just in the success, but the bonds developed.
“Even regardless of the wins and losses and all the titles, it was just great to play together one last time,” adds Jackson of getting to go out on the biggest stage with her teammates.
When the tears dried and the dust settled, it was yet another fantastic season for Lumpkin County, who finished 26-5 overall, ranked #1 throughout much of the season, won the regular season Region 7-AAA title, and did it all with the best unit the school has ever had within the state’s toughest region.
All told, the last 4 seasons has seen Lumpkin go 96-22, be ranked #1 in 3 of those seasons, won 3 regular season and/or tournament region titles, a State Championship, State Runner-Up, 3 Final Fours, 4 playoff runs, and countless memories. Dowse came on board a couple years before that, and it had always pointed to this season likely being the end of the road.
“I took this job 6 years ago,” says Dowse. “I told them I thought I had 6-7 years left in me. I just don’t have the juice to do another year in the classroom.”
Dowse began thinking about his decision back in December, and waited until the last possible day to turn in his letter of intent for the next school year. He battled the decision til the last day.
The Lady Indians take on that same persona. They battled every game down to the final horn, and for the Fab Five of Mullinax, Pierce, Jackson, Jones, and Brooks – it officially will be different from here on out.
For Dowse, the last 6 years at Lumpkin has produced 122 wins and all the last 4 years aforementioned accolades. He has revitalized a program that had not recorded more than 7 wins in a season over a 15-year stretch prior to his arrival.
“It’s been everything that I dreamed of and more,” adds Dowse. “Doing it like we did with hometown kids…I’m just blessed and thankful and grateful for the opportunity at Lumpkin.”
“It’s a huge part of who we are,” says Mullinax on the pride the team takes in being all Lumpkin County kids. “Lumpkin County is our hometown. Each player is homegrown. The community has supported us over the years.”
Most around the area will miss the way this Fab Five has played together, and how Dowse with his intensity would create a game plan to win the big games. The fans will miss the inside dominance of Kate Jackson. The splash 3-pointers from Lexi Pierce, Averie Jones, and the all-around elite play of Mary Mullinax. Or the clutch play from Ciera Brooks. But on what he’ll miss the most, Dowse was quick to answer.
“That’s easy…it’s the relationships. It’s already started. I’m going to miss the girls a lot. It’s tough.”
It’s not just a typical senior class and juniors like Jones and Brooks that might as well be seniors based on their play and leadership. It’s the fact that the Fab Five contains 4 1,000-point scorers (Jackson finished 50 shy, but missed an entire season to injury).
“Incredibly special,” states Dowse. “It’s the best collection of talent I’ve ever coached in a season (and two in a row). It’s the way they play…unselfish, with buy-in. Yes, they’re talented, but they’re also best friends.”
“We go way back into our rec games, where you’d see us in state championships, and then in high school you saw us in state championships,” adds Jones. “We’re just so tight-knit. There’s nothing that really ever comes between us. Off the court we’re best friends. It’s a bond that has always been there.”
To that point, the girls look at each other and know that while the bonds will remain, the friendship will not really be the same. No more bus rides, practices, and official games together. Each will go their own way. Mullinax is heading to Emory. Pierce to nearby UNG to team up with former Lumpkin teammate and star Isabel Davenport (’21). Jackson is going to Emmanuel with former ’21 Lumpkin standout Makenzie Caldwell. For Jones and Brooks, it’s rolling it back one more time to lead Lumpkin to a hopeful deep playoff run. And for Dowse, even he doesn’t yet know what’s next.
Regardless, the bonds these girls have made and the bonds with Dowse have been etched in stone. Nothing can take away the accomplishments and the memories of these individuals. Their legacies are set in Dahlonega, and while the distance now will separate them all, their friendships can never be broken.