THOMASVILLE — Only in her wildest dreams.
As the losses mounted for the Brookwood girls during Elizabeth Wedding’s freshman season in 2003-04, it was nearly impossible for the current senior to even dream about the revival that has the Warriors just two steps away from a state title.
“Wildest dreams, yeah,” Wedding said Tuesday, reliving the dark days of Brookwood’s past, when there were only eight Warriors total. “It was always something I wanted to do. I was like, ‘Maybe we can be second in the region, instead of fifth, by the time I’m a senior.’
“For us to be region champs and in the final four with a chance to move on is really amazing.”
However, just three years removed from that 2-20 disaster, the Warriors face Gatewood today at 5:30 p.m. in a GISA Class AA state semifinal at Georgia College in Milledgeville.
“I think that set this all up,” Wedding added. “Because, if we hadn’t been through that, we wouldn’t want to win as much.”
The Warriors’ resurgence began slowly, for the next season Brookwood improved to just 5-17. However, with current starters junior Lucy Mitchell and sophomore Logan Petrey joining the mix — and with Brookwood’s top two players getting injured in the season opener — the Warriors improved by taking their lumps.
“When I first started, the first thing we worked on was fundamentals, especially with them being so young,” former Brookwood coach Todd Thomas said. “As I told them then, ‘You’re going to take your lumps now, but a couple of years down the road you will see the benefit of playing this kind of competition.’ I really think you are seeing the fruition of that right now.”
Petrey added: “Yeah, that was a bad year. But we kept going and that fight continues, still. We remember. How could you not remember my eighth-grade year?”
Still, with the Warriors now within reach of their ultimate goal, that baptism-by-fire experience has shown to be a huge stepping stone.
“It was really good in a way,” junior Marielle Youmans, who lived through both rough seasons, said. “I got to play a lot. I was only in eighth grade (in 2003-04) and if the team had been really good, I wouldn’t have been able to play. Instead, I got to play a lot those two years and got a lot better. That has helped prepare me for this year.”
Even though Mitchell didn’t see action for the Warriors in 2003-04, as an eighth grader she practiced with the Brookwood varsity. She said when Thomas took over the reigns the next season, it was evident that Brookwood was moving in the right direction.
“That year it wasn’t a good team effort, it was what each individual could do by themselves and not what we could do together as a team,” she said. “These past two years, we’ve been really working on developing our teamwork and this year it has really come together.”
Still, the biggest step came last season. With the young Warriors maturing and the addition of Thomasville transfer Kendra Bell, Brookwood jumped all the way to a 19-9 record.
“Just by virtue of everyone trying to live up to her example, I think it lifted everybody up,” Thomas said of Bell’s impact on Brookwood.
However, the Warriors’ success ended in the second round of the state playoffs, when LaGrange Academy blasted them for the second straight season, 49-24.
The Warriors weren’t finished growing, though. Instead it took a couple early season losses to Class A Terrell Academy and a last-second win against Fullington Academy to finally push Brookwood over the hump, mentally. It also didn’t hurt that Brookwood added freshman center Domarnique Moore and a state champion coach in Shondra Johnson to replace the departing Thomas.
“When I hit the game-winner, I was like, ‘Oh yeah. We can beat anybody,’” Bell said about the Fullington win.
Even with all the progress, it was hard for some of the Warriors to bust through the callouses of the losses. Mitchell admitted to being uncertain about Johnson’s preaching of championships.
“Not that year we won five games,” she exclaimed about the possibility of winning a title. “I didn’t even think we’d get to state.
“But this year, coach has been like, ‘My ultimate goal is to win a state championship.’ I was just like, ‘Yeah, right. Maybe in like five years you can have a team that can win a state championship.’ But, now that we’ve come this far, I’m ready to win it all.”
THOMASVILLE — Only in her wildest dreams.