Briarwood Academy girls basketball coach Clayton Parrish had a lot to smile about this season.
His team won 96 percent of its games and hadn't lost one since his daughter, MacKenzie, was born.
Briarwood Academy's Clayton Parrish is no stranger to the playoffs.
Photo by Chris Thelen/Morris News Service
"I was beginning to think our first child was the team's good luck charm," Parrish said. "She's 10 months old now and it was like we couldn't lose with her around."
Briarwood set a school record with 25 consecutive wins. It was the first girls squad at the school to go undefeated during the regular season. The team earned its third region title in four years and reached the Georgia Independent Schools Association's Final Four for the fourth time in five years.
"It was a great ride and a great year," said Parrish, The Augusta Chronicle's All-Area Independent Schools Girls Basketball Coach of the Year. "I had a great time with this team and then a great feeling after practice."
That was until a state semifinal date with GISA powerhouse Pinewood Christian.
"It's extremely difficult when your first loss comes in the season's final game," Parrish said. "We didn't get our wake-up call or a chance to lose and correct what led to the defeat."
The team had worked all year on its pressure defense in a half-court man-to-man situation to prep for Pinewood.
Pinewood took an early 10-point lead but Briarwood fought back.
"We cut the lead to five in the second quarter and battled back and forth," Parrish said. "We were down five in the final minutes. They hit nine of ten at the line down the stretch. That's what champions do."
Parrish has reached the state semifinals with the girls team five of the past six years and took the Briarwood boys to that level the two previous seasons.
"I've just had some special athletes," Parrish said. "They're not the kids you expect to put on the floor at the private school level."
Parrish would include Anne Willis in that group. Willis finished as Briarwood's all-time scorer with 1,997 career points and was an All-State selection for the fourth consecutive season. She averaged 18.2 points this year.
"One of our closest games was Augusta Prep," Parrish said. "Anne makes two free throws to force overtime and two free throws in overtime to win it. She became the school's all-time leading scorer earlier that night with a free throw. It was all on her 18th birthday. How much more special of a night can a player give you?"
Parrish seems to have found a niche in his coaching life.
"I don't know if it's a knack but it seems I have good relationships with these girls," he said. "Coaching girls is not easy. I just try to make them play hard for themselves."
From the April 8, 2005 edition of The Augusta Chronicle