By only looking at the end result – a fourth consecutive state title after defeating Rabun Gap (Ga.) on Feb. 23 – it would be easy to surmise that this was just another dominating season for the Providence Day girls basketball team.
And while it turned out to be the case, after the Chargers graduated six of their top eight players from last season, it didn’t start out that way.
Coach Josh Springer said at team camp this summer the Chargers lost 11 of 13 games, which was an eye-opening experience for some of his returning players who would have to play increased roles during the upcoming campaign. And after finishing with roughly a .500 record in their subsequent summer-league games, Springer didn’t feel sorry for himself or his team. In fact, he felt encouraged.
“That was so good for us,” Springer said of the camp losses. “I knew this team would be different, but from last summer I really liked the chemistry we had and our senior leadership.”
After the Chargers defeated Rabun Gap, 44-28, last week to win their eighth N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A championship in nine years, Springer could reminisce on the season that was so different from years past.
The Chargers (27-4) lost more than two-thirds of their scoring, thanks to the graduation of current college players Tiffany Mitchell (South Carolina), Olivia Parker (Gardner-Webb) and Dacia Thompson (Queens University of Charlotte). But Springer said this season’s team was more about what it had than what it lost.
Springer pointed to senior Stephanie Davis as a prime example. Davis was this team’s “heart and soul” after spending the previous three seasons as a little-used reserve. This season, she started every game and played a crucial role in the Chargers’ success.
“Every team is a puzzle,” Springer said. “It’s one jigsaw piece after another. I’m really proud of this group. I don’t know if we’re the most talented team in the state. I don’t think we were the favorite (to win the championship), and I don’t say that for anything other than to be factual.”
But the Chargers rallied after their tough offseason and became their customary dominant selves.
While it was a team effort, the bulk of the Chargers’ scoring came from two players. Junior post Jatarie White scored in double figures each game, tallied 17 double-doubles and averaged 19 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Senior guard Ja’da Brayboy became an offensive force after mainly being a facilitator in her previous three seasons, averaging 13.1 points and adding 3.4 rebounds.
Now, Brayboy and Davis leave as four-time state champions.
“It’s an unbelievable experience,” Brayboy said. “To leave with four rings is unbelievable. It’s like all of our hard work has paid off. I can’t even explain the feeling.”
Springer said he enters each season with the goal of winning a state championship, but this one is special to him, too. As the Chargers add another banner to their collection, he can look back and appreciate this team’s accomplishments.
“I knew it was going to be a long journey,” Springer said. “I was proud of them (for) embracing the journey. This is the destination, the exciting part that everyone gets to read about, but these kids really loved the journey every day.
“I wouldn’t trade this group of nine for anyone else’s.”