The Briarwood Lady Bucs most successful season since 2005 ended last week in the GISA Class A Final Four state playoffs at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville with a 23-42 loss to Fullington Academy of Pinehurst.
After finishing the Region 1A playoffs as runners-up, the Lady Bucs defeated Monroe Academy of Forsyth 56-23 in the first round of the Class A state tournament and Georgia Christian Academy of Valdosta 45-33 in the second round of the state tournament before falling to Fullington in the semi-finals.
"It's a great accomplishment for a team to reach the final four, and it's really something for our seniors to be proud of," Coach Clayton Parrish said. "We really had a good work ethic this year."
Coach Parrish also praised the team's "chemistry," adding that he hopes that chemistry will carry over to next year's squad, which will be returning six of the Lady Bucs' top eight players.
Senior Jamie Russell, who played for the Lady Bucs for four years, and senior Sarah Nutial, who rejoined the team after not playing since the ninth grade, are the only two players the Lady Bucs are losing to graduation.
Russell, who made "great improvements" during this season, was a mainstay in the Lady Bucs' defense and especially valuable in the Lady Bucs' man-to-man full court press, according to Coach Parrish.
Nutial helped the team tremendously by coming out this season, according to Parrish, who said that Nutial "was very undersized for a post player, but made up for that by how hard she worked." She ended the season as the team's leading rebounder.
The Lady Bucs' record of 13-15 overall record for the season wasn't indicative of the team's true abilities, according to Parrish.
"We played a tough, non-region schedule," he said of the Lady Bucs, whose schedule included mainly much larger schools. "As a coach, I'm very proud of them and how much they improved throughout the season. It's gratifying to see a team improve so much throughout the year."
Based on this year's team's work ethic, steady improvement and team chemistry, plus, the experience of the trip to the state playoffs, Parrish is already expecting good things from next year's Lady Bucs squad.
"It was a good learning experience for our younger players who are coming back next year," Coach Parrish said of the Lady Bucs' first trip to the Final Four since 2005.
Poor shooting from the floor proved to be the Lady Bucs' downfall against Fullington, who outscored the Lady Bucs 14-8 in the first quarter, 8-2 in the second quarter and 12-5 in the third quarter. The Lady Bucs battled Fullington to an 8-8 tie in the fourth quarter.
"Once you get to this level, you have to play at your best, and we didn't do that," Coach Parrish said. "We just struggled too much offensively to give ourselves a chance to win the game. We missed too many easy shots, and they shot really well from the outside."
While Fullington hit five 3-pointers in the first half, the Lady Bucs had trouble hitting the basket at all.
"In the first half, we were only 2-of-16 from the paint," Coach Parrish said. "As a team, we only made 28 percent from the field. That's (accurate shooting) the major problem that we need to address in the off season"
Fullington's expertise in scoring from the outside and the Lady Bucs' failure to score prevented the Lady Bucs from using their best weapon against Fullington, their full court press.
"What we needed was to score enough points to be able to put the pressure on them in the half court. We just didn't score enough to be able to do that," Coach Parrish said.
Sophomore guard Maria Johnson led the Lady Bucs with 11 points, followed by sophomore forward Maggie Keene with seven points.