Gordon Central’s 2018-19 season came to an end in the first round of the state playoffs, falling to eventual state champion Douglass 63-51. The Lady Warriors are back on the hardwood after completing 2018-19 with a final record of 13-11, including 10-5 in Region 7-AA competition.
“Really the last two years we can mark down as successful years,” Swanson said. “I always look did we qualify for the state tournament or didn’t qualify for the state tournament. That’s kind of how we judge our success around here.”
On that front, GC will be aiming for a three-peat in state playoffs appearances, but has yet to capture a playoff victory during the span.
Swanson said from the previous season’s finale to now, his team’s biggest stride has been gaining confidence in playing without point guard Cara Crump, who has since graduated from Gordon Central High School.
“Cara wasn’t just a good basketball player,” Swanson said. “Cara got us in the right spots too.”
“I think they’re learning to play at a different pace,” Swanson continued. “The last two years, we didn’t play a lot of full court stuff. We didn’t press, we didn’t trap a whole lot ... but we’re looking to do a lot more of that more often this year.”
Roster-wise, the Lady Warriors have had a share of turnover as three seniors, one being the aforementioned Crump, departed the program. This season, Swanson’s squad will feature a balanced mix of four girls representing the seniors, juniors and sophomores.
Remember the name: If you’re a Gordon Central Lady Warriors fan, one player to definitely keep an eye on is junior point guard Mercedes Coleman. Coleman is the reigning Region 7-AA Player of the Year and achieved all-state honors in both her freshman and sophomore campaigns.
Swanson said Coleman may not only be the best player in the area, but also in North Georgia.
“In two years, she’s scored over 1,400 points for us, but you would never know it by the way she acts,” Swanson said. “I think we’ve got a good mix of young talent, some seniors that have played some big minutes for us, ... so we’ve got a good mix.”
Swanson said the squad’s most significant asset is its size.
“Right now, our biggest asset is probably going and getting rebounds and crashing the boards,” Swanson said. “Our size is really helping us do some things that we ... haven’t done in the past.”
Swanson said two areas of emphasis where the Lady Warriors can continue to make improvements is limiting turnovers and being in the correct positions on the defensive end.
“That’s two things we’ve got to work on the most, and even when we get good at that, we won’t be good enough,” Swanson said. “Every day in practice, we’re going to do 30-45 minutes of fundamentals. Hopefully, that’s going to help us take care of the basketball later. And every day at practice, 20 minutes or so, we’re going to work on our defense.”
Swanson said he does not define roles for his team; rather, the girls themselves learn and define their own roles within the unit.
“They kind of start learning that at camp in the summer,” Swanson said. “As soon as we start in the winter here ... it’s almost like muscle memory. They just automatically remember.”
Swanson said the message to the team entering this season has never wavered over the years. While striving for wins is a priority, there’s also a great deal to be said about learning valuable lessons for life after basketball.
“We want to get better every day,” Swanson said. “We want our girls to have fun and enjoy the game of basketball. I don’t want them to ever, even halfway through the season when it starts getting long, ‘Man, I can’t wait for this to be over,’ ... I want it to be fun and enjoyable, and when it stops being that way, I’m going to stop doing what I’m doing.”
Region 7-AA fields eight girls’ basketball teams. Of those, Swanson said you could put four or five names in a hat, shake it up and assign spots.
“Probably the top five teams in our region are pretty even,” Swanson said. “Our six and seven teams got plenty of young talent and they’re going to surprise a lot of people, so you’ve got to be ready to play every night. There’s not a night off in this region.”
Swanson said when the Lady Warriors show up, expect to see a show on display.
“When they walk away from watching Gordon Central, I want them to say that team played really hard, that team competes their tails off, and most of all, those kids seem to be enjoying it,” Swanson said. “They’re having a good time and they play with class.”