It was a special night in the pages of history at Briarwood Academy.
It was a night to remember a special boys' varsity basketball team - the 1999 team - which won the school's first and only basketball state championship. This past Saturday night marked the 10th anniversary of that team's great feat - one that saw an incredible run at the end with the Buccaneers winning 11 games in a row and going on to capture the Class AA GISA Boys State Basketball Championship.
At the time, the team was dubbed the "Mighty 9 of '99."
"We would like to welcome everyone here tonight as we celebrate a very special time in Briarwood history," said Mary Lynn Reese before announcing the players, coaches and cheerleaders from that special time a decade ago. "On that wonderful night in February of 1999, we all traveled to Milledgeville with one thing on our mind and that was to win a state championship. We fondly think back to the memories and excitement generated by that magical season.
"With nine determined basketball players, two anxious coaches and many excited fans, we traveled the road to the state championship. Tonight, we would like to recognize the men and women who worked so very hard to make that night possible for all of us. We would like to begin with the nine very energetic cheerleaders that supported these boys on their road to victory."
The cheerleaders included:Kelly McKinney, Lindsey Johnson Sisson, Abbie Williford Blackmon, Kelley Alley Branan, Jenny Bellamy Mooney, Liz Hansford, Tiffany Mimbs Anderson, Christy Prescott and Lindsey Goolsby Rogers.
The cheerleading coach that year, Lyn Neal, also was honored before Mrs. Reese. Mrs. Lyn with lots of enthusiasm in her voice, announced the nine players and their coaches. They included: Brinkley Bradshaw, John Hansford, Bo Fleming, Keith Johnson, Charles Wills, Geoffrey Gerlach, Jeremy Callaway, Josh Carter and Eric Appling.
The head coach of the team that year was Clayton Parrish, who serves as the head basketball girls' varsity basketball and track coach and assistant boys' varsity basketball team and principal of Briarwood Academy. He was assisted in coaching the state championship team that year by Coach John Osborne, who now serves as the school's athletic director and head football coach.
During the Region 1-AA tournament in 1999, the Bucs breezed past three different opponents to capture the region title and put themselves one step closer to accomplishing what they wanted most - a state crown. In the first of three region games, which were hosted at Briarwood, the Bucs defeated John Hancock Academy. They went on to hand Gatewood and Nathaniel Green Academy losses, too.
Their outstanding play in the region tournament earned them a trip to Milledgeville, where they defeated four other teams, including Trinity Christian School of Dublin 61-45, to actually lay claim as state champions.
Each of the players, cheerleaders and coaches attending the special tribute received a piece of the original gym floor that they played on from longtime Briarwood Headmaster John Hammond, who was assisted by Amy Hadden.
Following Briarwood's game against Curtis Baptist, Coach Parrish reflected on that most joyous occasion.
"It was pretty special," said Coach Parrish. "I hadn't seen some of these guys in five years or so. It was nice seeing and talking with them. There's no doubt about it - 1999 was a special year, because we had a very special team."
Coach Parrish now has two pieces of the gym floor - one as a gift to him from a former girl player and the one he just received from Mr. Hammond.
"I've got one piece hanging on my bedroom wall," admitted Coach Parrish. "I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this other piece just yet."
Keith Johnson, who is a member of 1,000 point club at Briarwood, said the 11-0 run to the state championship is what will always stand out to him.
"That was an amazing run," said Johnson, now an assistant football coach at Warren County High School. He earned All-Region and All-State honors in 1999.
Bo Fleming, who now serves as head coach of the varsity boys' basketball team at Briarwood, said the tribute to the team of '99 was nice and thoughtful.
"I wish we could live it all over again," said Coach Fleming. "It was a real special time in my life. Coach Parrish did a great job of getting us ready for every game that year."
As a player, Fleming, who also is a member of the school's 1,000 point club, scored 1,833 points during his career - a record that still stands today. He also amassed 1,133 career rebounds and averaged 21 points per game.
"It felt great to come back to the school and be remembered like this," said Charles Wills. "It was real exciting to remember what we did back in 1999. That team just clicked really, really well."
John Hansford, now a third year dental student at the Medical College of Georgia - where he serves as vice-president of the student body and president of his dental class, led the Bucs in 1999 in field goal percentage.
"It was really touching to be recognized back here at the school and to have so many people remember what we did that year," said Hansford, who hails from Washington. "It was also nice to catch up with some friends that I haven't seen or heard from in a while."
Hansford said he plans to hang the piece of gym floor on his wall.
"It's pretty special," added the former star basketball player.
Brinkley Bradshaw, who led the team with 36 blocks that season - six times as many blocked shots as any other player on the team, said the tribute to him and other former players "shows the deep appreciation that Briarwood still has for us after all these years. That's pretty special to me. I'll always remember this 10-year reunion."