Elbert County ends Panthers season, Hawley reflects on team’s growth

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It wasn’t the ending they were hoping for as the Lady Panthers fell to Elbert County High School in the first round of the region tournament. The loss eliminated Jackson County Comprehensive High School from a chance to compete in the state tournament.

One of the toughest duties for a head coach is delivering the last speech of the season, especially when it comes sooner then they’d hoped.

“I reminded them that they should be proud of the effort and hustle they displayed against Elbert County, [other teams] all season and to guard themselves against excuses. It was just one of those nights where the ball was not going in on any level. I really liked the way we competed all the way to the final whistle,” said head coach John Hawley.

The Lady Panthers have had six losses by less than 10 points. Their close matches are a testament to how hard players worked all year long.

“There is no quit in this bunch. I really hated the way the season had to end for our team and especially for our seniors,” said Hawley. “They were very focused as a team coming into this game and did the things they needed to do. Sometimes things don’t go the way we want.

“This is a very special group of young ladies and they were willing to do whatever it took to benefit the team. I have truly been blessed to share this season with an outstanding group of young ladies,” said Hawley.

Hawley noted the positive things he took away from the season as well as the biggest highlight of the year.

“[I appreciated] the family atmosphere the team created and their continued positive effort to get better each and every day,” said Hawley. “Our overall team offensive execution and team defensive has been the most consistent in the last three years I have been here. The one area that was spotty was finishing around the basket. The ladies did a much better job of executing from years past.”

The Panthers grew up on the court every night. Two of Jackson County’s most efficient play makers came from the hands of an upperclassman and a freshman.

“Victory Woods, who is a junior, had some outstanding moments in critical times for us this year and Shelton Kendrick really stepped up big for us this year as a freshman,” said Hawley.

“I am really proud of how our seniors grew this year. They have worked tirelessly to improve, had a willingness to learn and developed into outstanding team leaders,” he said. “They will be missed.”