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High school basketball: Wysocki a 'fearless' competitor for state championship-bound Flowery Branch
Junior guard's career-high 26 points, four steals boosted Lady Falcons to Class 5A semifinal victory
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Flowery Branch guard Caroline Wysocki (3) shoots the ball during the Region 8-5A tournament game between Flowery Branch and Cedar Shoals in Gainesville, on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. - photo by David Barnes

There’s something about Caroline Wysocki that sticks out like a sore thumb anytime the two-sport standout for Flowery Branch High plays basketball or soccer.

Some would say it’s her innate athletic ability that can easily transfer from one playing surface to another. It’s more so a fearless mentality, said Lady Falcons basketball coach Courtney Newton-Gonzalez, that has made the 5-foot-5 shooting guard so special, from springing off the bench last season as the team’s sixth man to becoming one of the starting five this year.

“She definitely is (fearless),” Newton-Gonzalez said. “This year, she’s done a good job of understanding the moments of when to, you know, pull it back some or knowing the time to score. It’s that maturity that she’s had the last couple of years. 

“Definitely, that killer instinct is something that makes her special.”

It came to fruition Saturday night, in the biggest game for the Flowery Branch program to date.

As the Lady Falcons watched their deficit climb into double digits and Taniyah Worth quickly enter foul trouble against No. 1 seed Harris County in the Class 5A semifinal game, Wysocki seized the spotlight. She scored her team’s first basket on a mid-range, pull-up jumper and went on to account for 13 of the team’s 25 points in the first half to keep it within reach. 

By the end, her career-high 26 points with four steals and three assists paired nicely with Worth’s second-half onslaught as the Lady Falcons stormed back from a 15-point deficit and pulled away for a 72-55 win at Fort Valley State University. 

Her breakout performance helped propel Flowery Branch to its first-ever state championship game, which will come against defending champion and Region 8-5A rival Buford at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 8, in Macon.

Wysocki was seemingly everywhere in the semifinal win, pouncing on any Harris County pass thrown in her vicinity on defense and then dishing to fellow guard Ashley Woodroffe for points in transition. When it wasn’t that, she wowed the crowd with her nifty dribbles and even added an acrobatic up-and-under to make it 56-41 during a monster scoring run by Flowery Branch in the third quarter. 

“It was fun to watch (Caroline) put the team on her back, especially in the first half and especially when Taniyah was kind of struggling with her fouls,” Newton-Gonzalez said. “She’s a very skilled basketball player, and she’s very skilled on the defensive end as well, which kind of got her going (Saturday). It was fun to watch.”

It wore off on her teammates as the aggressive play of Flowery Branch’s guards gradually wore down a towering Harris County team led by 6-foot-5 Mississippi commit Jessika Carter. The Lady Falcons outscored Harris County 24-8 in the third quarter before Worth and Wysocki combined for 15 of Flowery Branch’s 23 points in the final period. 

Worth finished with 20 points, while Woodroffe was another scorer to amass double figures with 16 points, followed by Lexie Sengkhammee with eight.

“They just continued to make the adjustments that we were asking them to do, and they locked into that,” Newton-Gonzalez said. “They had a job, which was pressure the other guards, and they all did a great job at it. They continued to make layups in transitions off steals, and again that sparks from just their ability to lock in and do what we ask them to do.”

It was something Newton-Gonzalez knew Wysocki had in her — the same goes for all her players — all along. After putting in big minutes off the bench behind Woodroffe in 2016-17, Wysocki was discontent with being on the bench her junior season.

“I worked hard. I don’t need to be sitting on the bench,” Wysocki said. “I want to be out there. I don’t ever want to be average. ... I think that should be everyone’s mindset.”

Rest assured, Wysocki has solidified her starting role after averaging 12.7 points, three assists and leading the team in steals. 

It all goes back to the tenaciousness of Wysocki, who said she has carried with her since she started playing sports at the age of 5. Her vision for finding the basket or that open shooter on the court goes hand-in-hand with soccer too. Wysocki notched a hat trick during the Lady Falcons’ historic semifinal run in the state soccer playoffs last spring.

“(Caroline) is so quick on her feet, and she is able to read things,” Newton-Gonzalez said. “She’s great at making decisions and making some passes in transition — they correlate.” 

It’s a trait that has the Lady Falcons soccer team (8-0, 1-0 Region 8-5A) “biting at the bits” to get its midfielder back on the pitch this spring, joked Newton-Gonzalez.

Yet first-year coach Anel Lilic will have to wait a little longer. After missing the first nine soccer games due to the Lady Falcons’ basketball run, Wysocki will be a part of a Flowery Branch team looking to win its first state championship.

The Lady Falcons have yet to beat Buford since both teams merged in the new classification in 2016.

Wysocki would like one more win before she makes the switch to cleats.

“I am more determined, knowing that we’ve lost to them in the past,” Wysocki said. “This is our chance. We’re at the state championship. This is our time to win.”

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