Parkview's No. 2-ranked girls basketball team may have more than its own fans on its side when it takes on top-ranked Redan in the Class AAAAA state semifinals today at 4 p.m.
As the county's sole representative in the Final Four of the state's two highest classifications at the Arena at Gwinnett Center, the Panthers (30-1) are hoping to bring a little local flavor to the trophy presentation after Friday night's finals.
That is something that has been somewhat of a tradition this decade, with Collins Hill having kept the title in Gwinnett five times since 2000 and Parkview's 2003 championship making it six titles for Gwinnett schools in the eight seasons Class AAAAA has existed.
And it's a tradition the Panthers don't want to break.
"They're extremely excited about not having to drive so far and having the (Gwinnett) community coming to watch them," Parkview coach Mike McCoy said. "I think they'll represent the community well. ... Hopefully, the community will get behind them."
Of course, that first means being able to hand Redan (25-0) its first loss of the season - a difficult task, to be sure.
The Raiders return several key players from last year's state runner-up team, including junior point guard Alisha Andrews - who put up 28 points in last year's semifinal win over Duluth - and 6-foot junior Nia Evans. Redan also has added punch in the form of junior MacKenzie Dalrymple, who played her first two seasons at Collins Hill and Peachtree Ridge.
While the Panthers acknowledge a sense of civic pride to defend, their own legacy is also on their minds.
Many of the older players, especially the team's four seniors - starters Megan Barnidge and Megan Geiger and reserves Morgan Mitchell and Jennifer Wormley - still remember the tough times from earlier in their career, and want to leave on a high note.
A large junior class that includes key players Lauren Coleman, Maggie Smith and Enjoli Johnson also remember those tough times, and hope to make their own reward for perseverance.
"They want to make their own mark," McCoy said of his players. "They thought they were good enough to get here last year, but ... things didn't work out.
"All those young kids two years ago had to play early as freshmen and sophomores and had to maintain their composure. That year, they got beat by a very good South Gwinnett team by 50 points. And for that group to keep their focus and not get discouraged and do what they've done since is tremendous."
SideBar: State Basketball Tournament
At the Macon Centreplex
4 p.m. - Henry County vs. Model girls
5:30 p.m. - Blessed Trinity vs. Greene County boys
7 p.m. - Buford vs. Laney girls
8:30 p.m. - GAC vs. Dublin boys
At the Arena at Gwinnett Center
4 p.m. - Parkview vs. Redan girls
5:30 p.m. - Milton vs. Newnan boys
7 p.m. - Beach vs.
8:30 p.m. - Westlake vs. Wheeler boys