No panic for Southwest DeKalb girls

As a point of reference, Southwest DeKalb has some fairly recent history to indicate that a slow start doesn’t have to define a season.

In the 2012-13 season, the Panthers were 8-7 after 15 games before winning 16 of their last 17 to claim the Class AAAAA crown. In the 2015-16 season they dropped five straight games in December before blitzing to another state title.

This year’s 0-3 start? No worries, mate. The Panthers beat Clarkston 71-10 Tuesday night to get out of the winless category. Not that veteran coach Kathleen Richey-Walton was concerned.

“I think they’re a little disappointed, but this was not really unexpected,” Richey-Walton said. “The way we develop our program, we’re not as concerned with how we start as we are with how we finish. That’s why we schedule the way we do.”

Indeed, not all 0-3 starts are created equal. The three losses were to defending Class AAAAAAA Champion McEachern, Greater Atlanta Christian, a Class AAA semifinalist last year, and Harrison, a AAAAAA finalist last year.

Steeled by that difficult early schedule, and the development of sophomore Raven Thurman, the Panthers expect a strong finish.

Tuesday’s win aside, Richey-Walton said she’s already seeing a response to the slow start.

“You hate to lose and I don’t relish it, but you really can get their attention. They’re working harder than they started out. They want to uphold that Southwest DeKalb tradition,” she said.

Reversal of fortune: Early season results can be deceiving, but it’s hard to look past what the East Jackson boys have done so far.

Coming off a 2-24 finish last season, the Eagles under second-year head coach David Akin have blitzed to a 6-0 start. Included in that win total is a championship at the Tanger Thanksgiving Tournament, which Akin said is the first tournament title in school history.

Later this month, the team flies to Florida for the Rock Holiday Classic in Orlando after Christmas.

“It will be the first time that all but one of our players and coaches in our program will fly,” Akin said. “We will be the first team in Jackson County history to fly as a team. We are a Title 1 school in an area that has poverty, which is why this is such a significant trip.”

The Eagles face their stiffest test to date Saturday, when they play at defending Class AAAAA champion Buford.


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