TRENTON, Ga. -- If Randy Watson was hoping his basketball team could continue to toil in relative obscurity a little longer, Tuesday's 38-point win over a one-loss Chattooga team took care of that.
The dominating win, reminiscent of the years when banners were regularly hung in the Dade County High School gym rafters, improved the Lady Wolverines to 12-0 and signaled to the rest of tough Region 7B-AA that a new contender is back to its old ways.
"Our main goal is to hang a banner because we haven't done that in a couple of years," 6-foot-2 center Ansley Chilton said. "I had a feeling we would have a good season, but we've definitely exceeded my expectations."
To get where they are, a team that was just 14-15 last season had to take a long look at itself. A renewed commitment to working harder and a little depth have carried this once perennial power back to relevance.
"We've all played together since we could pretty much walk," said Chilton, who averages double figures in points and rebounds. "We've changed the way we go after it this year, and we all work hard and do the little things. We never have a problem with effort this year, but last year and the year before we had some trouble with effort and our habits. Now we're finally getting things back to where they used to be."
Tuesday's game was classic Dade County. With more depth to play with, the team again is a terror with its trapping full-court defense, and with more size inside the Lady Wolverines are better equipped to exploit an opponent's weakness.
"This is the first time in a long time we don't have to rely on the jump shot," Watson said. "Chilton is playing really well, and we've got four kids 5-11 or better, the first time we've had that since I've been here. Holly Gross and Erika Woodfin have been mainstays for a while in the backcourt."
Leading scorer Woodfin is deadly from outside -- she had a career-best 30 points on nine 3-pointers Tuesday -- while Gross is the steady senior closing in on 1,000 career points. When the starters go out, subs such as 6-1 freshman Sarah Reid, 5-11 junior Abby Bradford and senior guard Haleigh McBryar keep the pressure up.
That added depth is something Watson hopes will make a difference against subregion rival Calhoun and other dangerous teams such as Sonoraville, North Murray and 7A-AA powerhouse Model, a team Dade could see in the region tournament. He'll get a better idea of where his team stands tonight when defending region champ Calhoun (7-1) comes calling.
"They're the region champions until somebody beats them," Watson said. "They're probably 15 deep and they're playing better than last year. I'm hoping we can do some things against them that we haven't been able to do in the past because of our depth."
The early success, achieved despite a schedule that had them on the road the entire month of December, has toughened the Lady Wolverines, something they'll need over the next six weeks.
"It doesn't shock me, but I wasn't expecting it," Woodfin said of the team's unbeaten start. "We've won some games this year against some good teams that we wouldn't have won last year. We're stronger mentally and we always play our hearts out. That wasn't always the case the last couple of years."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...
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