Minutes after Miller Grove won its first girls state basketball championship, there was a bonding moment a long time coming.
As the players and coaches walked off the court March 9 at Gwinnett Arena and into a walkway leading to the locker room, they were met by players and coaches from the Miller Grove boys’ team. The Wolverines were minutes away from attempting to win their fourth straight Class AAAA state title.
Standing in a single file line, each player extended a hand and with a smile congratulated their female counterparts after a 46-39 win over Southwest DeKalb in the girls’ AAAA final.
“It was celebrating time,” said boys coach Sharman White, after hugging girls coach Renee Breedlove. “That gave us some extra mojo for our game. If it’s good for the girls, then it’s good for us. We didn’t want them to be No. 1 and not us.”
White and his team didn’t disappoint. The Wolverines survived a physical game against Southwest DeKalb to win 62-57 for their fourth consecutive championship. Westover was the last team to accomplish that feat from 1990-93.
“We should be having a parade,” White said of the sweep. “These are two quality programs and we both finished the drill.”
It proved to be no easy task for either team. The Miller Grove boys had beaten rival Southwest DeKalb three previous times this season, all by six points. Southwest made up a three-point halftime deficit to lead by as many as five points in the second half. The game turned when the Panthers’ William Goodwin fouled out with 3:31 to play and his team ahead 49-48. The Wolverines responded by making 14 of 18 free throws the rest of the way.
“It was a big point of emphasis for us to go after [Goodwin],” said Miller Grove’s Tony Parker. “We had to.”
Said White: “He’s a great player and if we take out someone like that it limits what a team can do. When he fouled out it gave us that extra edge we needed.”
Parker led with 21 points and 13 rebounds while Justin Colvin added 17 points. Goodwin fouled out with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Panthers.
In the girls’ game, Miller Grove opened up a 30-13 halftime lead and still was ahead by 15 after three quarters. The Wolverines survived a fourth-quarter rally by the Panthers who trimmed the deficit to seven points.
Klarissa Weaver led the Wolverines with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Tabitha Fudge had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Southwest forced 26 turnovers in its attempt to rally for its fourth state title in five seasons. The Panthers won three straight from 2008-10 and had a streak of 19 straight state playoff wins snapped in the final.
“It’s awesome to be able to follow in the boys’ footsteps,” Breedlove said. “We’re family and they all support each other.”
The girls’ players point to a weekend at a tournament in Naples, Fla., over holiday break that helped them come together as a team. The boys’ had a similar experience last season.
“That’s when we bonded,” senior Fudge said. “I came out at the beginning of the season and told them I was going to give my all and asked them to do the same.”
While Miller Grove’s boys’ team had five seniors, including all-American Parker, Colvin, and Georgia signee Brandon Morris, the girls’ team earned their title with only one senior—post player Fudge who has signed a scholarship to High Point University in North Carolina.
“We plan to win it again next year,” Weaver said. “We have a strong program and coach Breedlove does a great job. We love our coach. She has made everybody a better player.”
For the boys, Parker and some of the other seniors end their high school careers a perfect 20-0 in postseason games.
“We learned how to fight and keep our heads up this season,” Parker said. “I’ve been able to play with five players who I love and 17 players who have all been together for a long time. This championship is absolutely the most special.”