With each step along the road to its ultimate goal of a state championship, the Kendrick High girls basketball team has been faced with more difficult competition.
In the second round of the Class AA playoffs, it was Greater Atlanta Christian, which pushed the Lady Cherokees to the brink in a 61-59 game. The quarterfinals ended in a 10-point win for Kendrick, but it was held to its third-lowest point total of the season.
Now, it will face the only other unbeaten team in Class AA when it faces Laney at 4 p.m. Friday in the semifinals at Georgia College in Milledgeville.
Coach Sterling Hicks appeared taken aback when informed of that statistic. Thats because the Lady Cherokees really are just worried about themselves, Hicks said.
We dont discuss the other teams record, he said. We just worry about us.
Its a refrain hes used throughout the season to great success. Kendrick has made a habit of running away from opponents, though it has been tested in its past two games.
Most importantly, hes got his players sharing the same mindset.
We dont look at the other side, junior Kahlia Lawrence said. Its just another side. We do what we can do to prepare and do things the right way.
Were only focused on what we do, Deja Cheatham said. Were focusing on the next game and not looking too far ahead.
Its coach speak in a way (taking it one game at a time), but it really is a part of Kendricks personality. Hicks knows he has a team capable of success at the state level, so hes not about to change its identity at this point in the season.
Its too late in the game to change anything, he said. Were just going to keep doing what got us here.
What got them there is the Lady Cherokees speed, athleticism and, most of all, defense.
Everything starts on defense, Hicks said after his teams win on Tuesday.
That was again a point of emphasis when the players talked before their practice on Thursday.
We know theyre bigger than us, Lawrence said of Laney. We need to be able to run to wear them down. As long as our defense is on, well be alright.
Cheatham noted Kendricks stamina and its effect on the pace of a game.
Thats really important, she said. We need to keep the pace up in order to wear them down and get some of their key players out.
Its possible that the location of the game could get credited with an assist if the Lady Cherokees are to win.
Playing at Georgia College, the court will be bigger than the one the teams are used to playing on in high school.
Hicks didnt say whether he thought that would benefit his team, but given its athleticism, it certainly wont hurt.
We hope so, he said. I hope it will benefit us.
Whether it does or not, Hicks said hes, obviously, only worried about the end result.
It doesnt matter how you get there. Just get there, he said. Just keep moving forward.
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.