Chancie Dunn had the look of someone who had run an Olympic marathon.
Her breathing labored and eyes glassy, the Southwest DeKalb senior barely could utter the words: “They said we weren’t gonna do it, ya’ll; they said we weren’t gonna do it, ya’ll.”
But in the aftermath of the Panthers’ third straight Class AAAA girls basketball championship, Dunn and her teammates proved they could do it. The improbable run ended with a resounding 65-45 win over Northwest Whitfield, March 12 to bring the Panthers’ record over the past three years to 87-10.
Two hours later, the Miller Grove boys celebrated repeating as Class AAAA champions with a 64-35 rout of Mays by mobbing coach Sharman White. It was the first title for White, who served a controversial one-year suspension last season.
“I can’t describe the feeling,” said White, who built the Miller Grove program. “I owe a lot of credit to my family, our principal, my pastor. We’ve been able to create a family atmosphere on this team. They’re always together.”
For both teams, the titles were the culmination of a season-long plan that each team kept to themselves until the trophies were secure.
Southwest DeKalb’s motto for the past three seasons has been “The Road: The Rise of a Dynasty,” Panthers coach Kathy Richey-Walton said.
“We have eight seniors on the team, and they have never lost their last game of the season,” Richey-Walton said. “They went undefeated on the JV and now have won three straight championships. We never shared our motto with anybody. I told them to stay humble, don’t say anything about it, it’s just among us. Once you achieve it then you can tell people that you had a goal that you achieved. That’s what they did.”
The goal probably came to fruition within the first few minutes of the game as the Panthers built a 14-0 lead and were never challenged. Kayla Lewis had 14 of her 19 points in the first quarter and Dunn added 19. Alondra Rivers had 10.
In the Miller Grove locker room after the win over Mays, chants of “One Night in Florida” could be heard above the commotion. The phrase refers to what White and his players call the turning point of the season. A loss on Dec. 28 in the Great Florida Shootout was followed by 22 straight victories.
“That’s between us,” White said. “This is a testament to their hard work and perseverance.”
Miller Grove senior Adarius Fulton, who led the Wolverines with 18 points, was driven by the early-season catharsis.
“We’re a young group and one night in Florida got us playing like a team,” Fulton said. “Coach White is like a dad to me. Anybody on the team can talk to him about anything.”