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Chestatee Lady War Eagles: A team of fate
Chestatee High girl’s basketball head coach Web Daniel talks to his team about Tuesday’s game during practice Monday. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

GHSA state playoffs

Tonight’s games

Coosa at Buford girls, 6 p.m.

East Hall girls at Dunwoody, 6 p.m.

Chestatee girls at Carrollton, 7 p.m.

Wednesday’s games

West Hall boys at Columbia, 6:30 p.m.

Druid Hills at Gainesville boys, 7 p.m.

North Hall boys at Cedartown, 7 p.m.

Blessed Trinity at Riverside, 7:30 p.m.

It’s too easy to say that the Lady War Eagles basketball team is one of destiny.

But a team of fate? Perhaps.

Last summer, mired in a slump in which his team lost 18-of-21 camp games by fewer than five points, Web Daniel’s words to his team were prophetic.

“I told them that the things we were going through would make a great story when we made the state tournament,” the Chestatee coach said.

It was a statement he used again at the beginning of this season when the Lady War Eagles (17-11) lost four straight games by an average of four points, starting with a three-point loss to then fifth-ranked Gainesville.

“It’s been the same all along,” Daniel said. “We’d start strong and get up, and then have a letdown.”

“We just couldn’t finish,” Chestatee junior shooting guard Chelsea Wilson said. “That’s something we’ve really had to focus on.”

That focus paid off at just the right time and led the team to a win in the program’s first state playoff appearance.

Down by five points with 11 seconds left against second-ranked Franklin County, Wilson and Shelby Bright hit back-to-back 3-pointers for the win.

“The thing was that in this game, all of us listened to coach Daniel the whole time,” Bright said. “At a few parts, (Franklin County) would go on a run and it was so loud, and he would call a timeout and calm us down.

“In other games, like Gainesville, we dropped our heads. But this game we knew we could win.”

The fateful story, however, doesn’t end there.

It’s as though the Lady War Eagles knew all along that no matter what happened, they would be where they are.

At the beginning of the season, the team told lone senior Jessica Porter that they would make it to state in her honor.

In practice, during the team’s daily two-minute shooting drills, Wilson and Bright worked on last-second shots.

At the head of it all was Daniel, who told his team prior to their first state game that if they kept the score to within six points going into the fourth quarter, they would win.

“I feel that way about any game,” Daniel said. “If they can keep it close, I feel like as a coach I can come up with six to eight points.

“If they can keep it close, I’ll come up with something to help us win the ballgame.”

What he came up with in the Franklin County game wasn’t a play or a trick defense, but yet another prophetic statement — this one to instill confidence.

After Wilson’s 3-pointer pulled her team within two points with 11 seconds left, Daniel immediately called a timeout.

“Coach Daniel said to foul as soon as they got the ball in,” Peyton Robertson said. “He said that they would miss one of their
free throws.”

Franklin County missed both free throw attempts, Wilson grabbed the rebound and Bright’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer off an assist from Wilson sent the Chestatee faithful into a frenzy, and the Lady War Eagles into the second round.

“It feels really good,” said Porter of her team’s win. “It just feels amazing.

“I don’t want to be too overconfident, but when we won that game, I felt like we could beat anyone. I’m nervous, but I know if we play like we did against Franklin County, anything’s possible.”

Chestatee left its gym after practice Monday night to make the trek to Carrollton, where it will take on the state’s fourth-ranked team tonight.

The Lady Trojans (28-2) lost in the state finals last year.

“When you get to state, everyone’s tough,” Wilson said. “Everyone made such a big deal about Franklin and everyone is making a big deal about Carrollton, but no one really says anything about us, which is completely fine. They can underestimate us if they want to.

“I just think with that win (against Franklin County) we showed people that we can play when we come to.”
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