It was about change.
Much like the county’s other schools, football and other boys sports typically dominate the landscape. However, for one moment, the Lady Wolverines basketball team was the talk of Towne Lake.
“They’re going to come play regardless of who is in the stands, but we played (West Forsyth) during the (winter) break and had the biggest crowd we’ve probably had here,” said Woodstock coach Julie Crowe of the team’s chance to host its first state playoff game. “It was great. It was an electric atmosphere, and the kids felt it. After the game, I heard fans talking about how great the atmosphere was. It’s fun to be a part of something like that, and I’m lucky to be a part of it with the girls that I have here.”
After that first-round victory, the stands were full once more to see Woodstock play North Gwinnett in the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs. Combined with the support Woodstock received at the end of the regular season, it was something Crowe said she had not been a part of in a long time.
“As far as basketball, that was it. That was the biggest,” she said. “I’ve been here for 14 years, but making history here was something we talked about for a really long time. The girls finally got the banner. The banner is hanging up there now as of this week.”
The monumental season was particularly special for Crowe, the 2011-12 Cherokee Tribune Girls Basketball Coach of the Year. It took her back to her time as a graduate assistant at North Georgia College and State University, and her time as a player.
“I never won a region championship,” Crowe said. “I played on some talented teams. As a graduate assistant at North Georgia, we went to nationals. That was probably the first time I was in a game like that where I wasn’t playing but actually coaching.”
Even after the loss to North Gwinnett that ended Woodstock’s season, it was clear that Crowe and her players knew just how far they had come.
“Right now, it’s tough to look back, especially after a loss like this when we had every opportunity to win,” Crowe said after the game. “Overall, we had an extremely talented group of girls all the way around. It was a great thing for the seniors, not go out the way they did, but to step back and look at the season they had.
“It was an unbelievable and memorable season for them. We reached the sweet 16 — hung a banner. That’s what they wanted to do here when they walked through the door.”
In order to get to that point, Crowe took a roster of players that had been playing together since they were freshman. Clara Young led the team as its captain and point guard, while top scorer Makensie Block and post presence Brianna Lakes were two of the other top players who helped put so many points on the scoreboard.
Although that trio had a major impact, the impact made by several key seniors was also important, albeit sometimes neglected.
Tariah Welch was able to play every position for the Lady Wolverines and battled back from injury throughout her career to become the team’s top defender. Junior McKenzie Fortson provided key minutes off the bench — and size that neither Block nor Young could provide — while senior point guard GiGi Asberry provided a burst of speed off the bench.
“Those kids don’t get in the paper very often and stay out of the highlights,” Crowe said, “but Tariah is going to shut down the best opponent on the other team. McKenzie is going to spark us and do some big things on both ends of the floor.
“We just have so many different players to do things and step up like before. I think it’s a hard team to defend because, on any given night, we could have someone step up. This is a special group of girls, and we have known that from the get-go.”