Photo by Brian Giandelone
MACON -- Peppered among the Wesleyan student section during the boys Class A state final game, stood groups of girls with matching shirts, hats and medals dangling from their necks.
Most still wore their shorts and some still had tape wrapped around their ankles. Less than 30 minutes after the girls team from Wesleyan stood on the court with their third straight state title, those same girls now cheered their boys chasing the same title.
For some of the girls this was the second time. Two seasons ago Wesleyan swept the Class AA state titles on the same court in Macon.
It's good to be a part of Wesleyan basketball.
"It's awesome," said Wesleyan senior girls guard Erin Hall from the front row of the student section.
She still wore the shirt, but another student had borrowed her hat.
Hall did the same routine her sophomore year, but this time seemed slightly more special.
"I am happy for the boys, they are pretty much the underdog," Hall said as the boys clung to a small lead over Whitefield Academy in the fourth quarter.
Minutes later, those underdogs matched their dominant female counterparts with another state title.
For the senior class at Wesleyan that is five state basketball titles in their career. Three girls, two boys. The two Wesleyan sweeps are the first-ever for any school in Georgia.
"It says something about our school," Wesleyan senior Griffin Schamp said. "It says something about our program."
And that just got the day started.
The Buford girls defended their title, beating undefeated Vidalia in the Class AA championship and GAC ended the day with the county's fifth title of the year.
Five basketball state championships in one year sets a new county record. In 2001 the county crowned four champions when the Berkmar boys and the Central Gwinnett, Collins Hill and GAC girls all won the title.
This year, not only did Gwinnett sweep Classes A and AA, county champions also ended unbeaten runs of two teams.
The Norcross girls beat undefeated Redan on Friday night. To win last year, Buford also ended an undefeated season when it beat Model.
"We did it last year, so we thought we could do it again this year," Buford head coach Gene Durden said.
In five years in Gwinnett, Durden brought the county two state titles. But when GAC won, Eddie Martin won his fourth for the county this decade. After winning three straight at Norcross, Martin needed just two seasons to bring the Spartans their first boys title since 1977. Martin has spent his entire career coaching in Gwinnett County and has seen basketball's talent surge.
"It's unbelievable. No matter what the classification is," Martin said. "The level of play in Gwinnett County over the last 10 years has gone up tremendously."
Most Wesleyan fans were long gone when the GAC boys stormed the court, but Hall's words about her Wolves transcended just one team, but all of Gwinnett County.
"It's pretty cool," Hall said. "It's like we own the state championship."