The matchup for the 2017 Georgia High School Association Class 4A girls basketball championship game was set, pitting Muscogee County rivals Carver and Columbus against each other, and the two principals figured they should have a friendly wager.
“But we wanted to take it a step further,” Columbus principal Marvin Crumbs said Thursday. “We wanted to have a positive aspect, not just for our student body, but also outside of our student body, some long-term effect.”
Crumbs and Carver principal Chris Lindsey agreed to challenge their students to raise the most money this week and make a joint donation to the United Negro College Fund. So while the Lady Tigers and Lady Blue Devils prepared for Friday’s title game, their fellow students pulled coins and bills from their pockets and wallets to show their school spirit and generosity.
Carver sophomore David Duncan donated $1 at the table in a corner of the cafeteria and explained, “I just thought it was the right thing to do.”
Carver sophomore Jarius Thomas, who plays on the boys basketball team, which reached the state quarterfinals this year, donated $2. He was motivated to outdo the rival.
“Columbus is already a good school, but we’re a good school, too,” Jarius said. “Everybody assumes that Carver’s a bad school, so we’re just trying to (prove them wrong).”
Carver senior Mya Millner, a guard/forward on the team, was selling “We Run This State” T-shirts outside the cafeteria Thursday. She helped design the shirts, ranging in price from $12-$14, in her fashion and marketing class for the school’s store, run by its chapter of DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America).
All the support “feels good,” Mya said, “just knowing you have fans and people going for you.”
Carver principal Chris Lindsey wasn’t available for an interview Thursday. Assistant principal Lisa Norris said the hype before the game has been positive for the school.
“Playing against Columbus High School is kind of the cherry on top of the ice cream, because we’ve played them three times already this year,” said Norris, a Carver graduate and former head coach of the Lady Tigers (1997-2001). “We’ve won twice; they’ve won once. So it’s a good rivalry. A lot of the girls grew up playing AAU ball together, but once they get on the court, you would not even know that they know each other.”
Columbus High’s spirit club, the Blue Brigade, has been collecting money during homeroom and lunch this week. Columbus senior Kaitlyn Lester used a microphone in the cafeteria Thursday to solicit donations.
“It’d be really great if any of you have any spare change or dollars,” she announced. “… I think we’re ahead right now, and we want to stay that way. This is like the game before the game. We need to support our Lady Blue Devils and the UNCF.”
In an interview, Kaitlyn said, “We’ve had a really excited kind of atmosphere right now. There’s a lot of energy, especially since both of the teams are from Columbus. It’s like one of our hometown rivals anyway, which makes the desire to win both competitions — both the game and raising money — all the more important.”
Sam VanHorn, another Columbus senior and Blue Brigade member, said, “Overall, it’s just a great cause. … It’s already a hard thing getting money for scholarships and going to college, so being able to help someone that needs help getting to college with scholarship money, it’s just a great opportunity to help.”
Crumbs, a former Columbus State University basketball player, was on two Randolph-Clay High School teams that reached a state championship game. He won as a freshman in 1986 and lost as a senior in 1989.
“I understand the feeling,” he said. “… State championships don’t grow on trees.”
And neither does money, so these principals want their students to learn that lesson as well.
“At the end of the day on Friday, there’s going to be a state champion who resides in the city of Columbus,” Crumbs said. “But, at the same time, there’s one part of it where everybody will be a winner.”