Courtney Newton-Gonzalez did not indulge in any sort of extravagant celebration when the final buzzer sounded inside the Flowery Branch High gymnasium Friday night, sealing the Lady Falcons’ 78-48 win over Marist. There was no whooping or fist pumping. No excited jumping up and down.
Instead, she merely walked to the back of the line her players had formed to shake hands with each member of the defeated team, just like she has so many times over her last four years as the team’s head coach.
From the outside, it seemed just like any other of Newton-Gonzalez’s victories. But in reality, this one was different.
This one was win number 100.
After the game, Newton-Gonzalez gave all credit for the accomplishment to her players.
“I knew when I took this job that we had some talented players, but ultimately that doesn’t matter if kids don’t buy in and work hard,” she said. “Just knowing this is our first group of seniors who have come through our program in four years, it’s been fun to watch them grow. It’s really, really fun to look back at all they’ve accomplished and see what amazing careers they’ve had.”
The group’s resume is rather impressive.
Four years after the program took a chance on a young coach, a 2007 Flowery Branch graduate herself who went on to play for the University of South Carolina, the Lady Falcons lay claim to four consecutive Lanierland titles. They have appeared in three state quarterfinal games, two state semifinals games and made one state championship appearance following last season.
They have accumulated a record of 100-15 over that time period.
Senior guard Caroline Wysocki — who has played for Newton-Gonzalez since arriving at Flowery Branch as a freshman — said her coach’s recent experience playing at an elite level has been the key to her success in guiding the team.
“She played at South Carolina, so she knows what she’s doing as a coach,” Wysocki said. “Playing in that atmosphere, she knows what it’s like for us out here.”
Wysocki certainly has a point. Newton-Gonzalez can relate with her players on a level most coaches couldn’t hope to.
She starred for the Lady Falcons during the mid-2000s, averaging 25 points a game as a senior at Flowery Branch and earning a spot on the Georgia All-Star team.
Getting a chance to coach for a school she once played for was a rare opportunity, and Newton-Gonzalez said she’s never taken a second of it for granted.
“We have a lot of pride in this school,” she said. “We’re very proud to be Falcons. There’s no place that I’d rather be, and I know everyone in this building feels the same way. To be able to come in here night in and night out and be able to represent this school, this community and represent them in the way that we do is extremely fun to be a part of.”
Wysocki managed to sum things up a bit more succinctly.
“I think it means more for her,” she said. “It’s her home court.”
When this year’s season finishes, Wysocki along with the rest of this senior class — the first which Newton-Gonzalez has coached for a full four years — will move on. New players will come in, and the fourth-year coach will continue to rack up wins, continue to line up behind her team to graciously congratulate countless defeated foes on a game well played.
But for now, Newton-Gonzalez remains focused on the conclusion to this year and earning just about the only accomplishment she hasn’t picked up in four years since returning to Flowery Branch: a state championship.
After all, as Newton-Gonzalez herself put it best “we’ve still got a lot of basketball left to play.”