Here are two truths: The regular season and past successes guarantee nothing in postseason play.
The region tournament doesn’t care that you went undefeated in the regular season and the state tournament isn’t more merciful to those who’ve been there before.
You have to want it; you have to be starved to win, at least that’s how Flowery Branch girls coach Hazel Hall put it Saturday night after her team’s upset win over Chestatee.
The Lady Falcons have a motto: All it takes is all you’ve got.
Those seven words resonate because they’ve bred success in the past, you see, Seth Vining said it to his Lady Vikings’ team in 1976. Those seven words brought state titles to East Hall and Saturday night, delivered a state tournament bid to Flowery Branch.
The girls aren’t overt about the saying; they don’t write it on their shoes or say it aloud in the pregame huddle: they simply believe it and live it and the evidence is in the win.
Flowery Branch makes no bones about its lack of offensive prowess. Other than senior Jessica Harper, who dropped 27 on Gilmer in the first round of the region tournament, the girls from the south end of the county have a rough time shooting and Hall will be the first to tell you that.
But what they lack in teachable ability, they more than make up for in areas that can’t be taught: determination, heart, defensive instinct, uncanny athleticism and the willingness to lay it on the line and give it all they’ve got.
“To know where we came from two years ago where we didn’t show effort and acted like we didn’t care when we played or if we won,” said Hall, who’s coached at Flowery Branch for three years and been at the helm for two, her voice drifting in both remembrance and an effort to hold back tears. “This group of seniors has bought in and I couldn’t be prouder for them - they’ve never been to state.”
We all have images seared into our memories.
Like a photo album, we can flip through them at a moment’s notice and are reminded of certain images through songs, reminiscing with friends or travelling to places of our youth.
But it’s rare, even though we can clearly see images in our memory, that we actually feel what we felt at the real event. While you can replay things, it’s nearly impossible to relive them until you see someone else experience what you once did.
Saturday night, when the buzzer sounded it was impossible for anyone who’d ever given it their all and succeeded not to be able to relive it because Flowery Branch had won, and they celebrated like they played.
They screamed, they hugged, they stood around in disbelief and, much like the manner in which she addresses her team, Hall made no bones about her joy.
She didn’t swallow a cry of adulation for posturing purposes, she screamed and jumped around and hugged her players – the ones who had never been there before.
The Lady Falcons are there now because they live their motto, not because they’re lucky.
The Lady Falcons are there because they dive on the floor, hustle to get a hand in the face of a perimeter shooter and capitalize on opportunities on the offensive end.
The Lady Falcons are there because they played, they won and they celebrated as though they were starved for it, giving it all they had.