RINGGOLD, Ga. — Eddie Bryant normally writes a letter to each of his basketball players before a season starts or early on. The letter usually describes what the Heritage High School girls' coach's expectations are for that player and maybe hints at what role she needs to fill.
Bryant has not done that this year, likely for two reasons. First, with a senior-laden team he felt roles and expectations already were well known. Secondly, though, it's likely the veteran coach sees a team that wants to write its own story, one that ends with postseason success.
For now, that's the only thing lacking in a program that has over the last four years won 74 games and a region championship. If it happens it will complete the legacy of the team's three stalwart seniors, a group Bryant can't praise enough.
"We were average or middle of the pack before they arrived, and they've taken us to the region championship last year and maybe to another this year," Bryant said of senior post Sydney Smith and guards Tori Harvey and Shayla Ludy. "They have raised expectations for the program so that now when people look at Heritage basketball they see us at the top of the standings and everyone expects us to be there."
While Bryant admits he didn't set a lot of goals for this season, the same can't be said of his seniors. After the Lady Generals earned the program's first home state playoff game a year ago, the resulting two-point loss to Arabia Mountain still stings.
"Well, we should have won that game," said Harvey, the team's point guard and self-professed calming influence. "We have the talent to do something special this year. If we get that one playoff win, I think things will fall into place. Winning one would really give us confidence."
"We were nervous last year because it was our first time to host, and it showed," added Ludy, who transferred from LaFayette before her junior season. "We learned a lot from that one. Now I want to win the state championship, and I think we can do it."
Confidence isn't lacking for this 22-2 team. Neither is balance. Smith, who will play softball at West Georgia, leads the team with a 14.2 points-per-game scoring average, with Ludy next at 10.4. Sophomores Emily Wiley and Ansley Bice are scoring right at 10 per game, with the pass-first Harvey at seven.
Smith, Ludy and Harvey each averages four rebounds a game, Harvey and Ludy combine for seven assists and nearly six steals, and each of the seniors rarely comes out of a game unless it's a blowout.
"I count on them a lot," Bryant said. "With those three, they come to practice and to play very hard every day.
"Sydney is all about effort and she brings an inside presence for us. Tori is one of the toughest three players I have ever coached. She had 18 or 19 charges (taken) last year, and of course, Shayla can break people down as well as anyone in our region."
The roles are defined, something that becomes clear early in watching them play. Smith is the focal point inside, with Harvey and Ludy using their quickness to break defenses down and create havoc. None of the three would be considered great shooters — that's Wiley's and Bice's role — and they know it.
"We all have certain roles," Ludy said. "Mine is to penetrate and play good defense. I'm not a shooter, so I try to do the other things. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but we play together."
But can they secure their legacy? Bryant said it's already cemented.
"I don't know if I can even put it into words what they have meant for this program," he said. "When everybody looks back, being region champs and the possibility of it happening again this year, they will be remembered as the best class to come through here."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296; follow on Twitter @youngsports22