Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Parkview girls basketball players Genesis Perrymond (30), Mia Marshall (42), back left, Vicki Harris (40), back right, and Marissa Mandeldove (5) pose for a portrait in Lilburn Thursday. These team standouts are backed by one of the deepest benches in Gwinnett County.
LILBURN -- Tuesday's 53-49 win over Archer was unusual in two major ways for Parkview's girls basketball team.
First, the four-point margin was far closer than any of the team's previous games.
The other way was the relatively few number of substitutions head coach Tony Watkins made.
But both differences Tuesday represent exceptions to what has become the rule at Parkview over the past several seasons.
Both the big wins and mass of contributing players remain Parkview's trademark this season as the Panthers have their orange wave of players to win their first 22 games by an average of more than 37 points per victory.
"We've got 11 kids averaging over 10 minutes a game, and we would have 12, but (one has) been hurt most of the year," Watkins said. "As you get deeper against the better teams, normally the bench will get a little smaller. ... (But) it's nice. When I was at North (Gwinnett), we had a hard time getting anything done in practice the last couple of years because my first five were so much better than (the second team). Now, we can put 12 or 13 or 14 or 15 players in there, and we can still get good work done at practice."
Parkview routinely dresses 19 players per game, and as Watkins pointed out, 11 of them are averaging more than 10 minutes per game.
What he didn't point out is how much each of those players contribute to the team's cause.
True, you won't find high-profile stars like Diamond DeShields, Lexie Brown or Kaela Davis on the roster, but the Panthers have proven that there's more than just safety in numbers.
Coming into Friday's 62-33 win over Shiloh, just three players -- Genesis Perrymond (11.6 ppg), Victoria Harris (10.9 ppg) and Marissa Mandeldove (10.0 ppg) -- were averaging in double figures scoring per game, while six more -- Makenna Pouengue, Bernice McGriff, Autumn Sizemore, Raven Johnson, Mia Marshall,Tatiana Wayne and Kristie Derouen all chip in at least four points per game.
In addition, the Panthers get at least 2.1 assists per game from six different sources and at least 1.8 steals per game from eight different players to provide a true team atmosphere in which any individual can step up to lead the team on any given night.
"We never know who's going to do it. We've got them all the way down the line," Watkins said. "We've got confidence in all of them. I think that's been a key to our success -- being able to play them all. If they're all well, we normally have 12 in during the first quarter."
And that's just fine with the Panthers.
"We don't have stars," said Mandeldove, who averages 6.2 assists and 5.1 steals per game to lead the team. "We all have our talents, ... but we all complement each other. If G.G. (Perrymond) is not shooting right, maybe I'm hitting that not. Or if I'm not hitting, maybe Makenna's hitting or Vicky's hitting. ... We can piggyback off each other. It's great."
And there are plenty of other benefits in the constant shuffling of lineups. For one thing, it can definitely help prevent fatigue, not only during games, but also beyond.
"Definitely when I play AAU ball, I'm dead after each and every game," said Marshall, who is the team's second-leading rebounder at 7.3 per game and also chips in 2.8 assists per contest. "Playing here, I share minutes with a lot of my other teammates. So, the next day, I'm OK and refreshed. A lot of other teams talk about how we send five in and five out and that they're tired and we're not. That's the benefit."
The other benefit of Parkview's legion is the experience it has given younger players.
It's a benefit that has been seen since Marshall and Mandeldove -- the Panthers' only two seniors -- were freshman under then head coach Mike McCoy, who used a similarly generous substitution pattern and a willingness to give underclassmen an opportunity for quality playing time.
Watkins continued that trend when he came in as coach last season, and the Panthers have reaped the rewards from that experience in positive contributions from youngsters like freshmen Dominique Leonidas, Derouen, Johnson and Sizemore and sophomores like Harris, McGriff, Pouengue and Wayne.
"We're excited about our youth," Watkins said. "Sometimes, I don't want to say it bites us, ... but sometimes we've got to point them in the right direction, and they're great kids. But ninth-graders are ninth-graders and 10th-graders are 10th graders.
"That's the only way they're going to learn is to play. That's the only way they're going to look better."
The platoon system has served Parkview well, which has accumulated a record of 157-14 the past five seasons under first McCoy and now Watkins.
It's been particularly successful during the regular season, during which the Panthers have lost just eight times over the last five years, including having rolled through the regular season undefeated to date over the last three campaigns.
But while they've reached the state quarterfinals three times in that time -- including one appearance in the state semifinals -- they still haven't yet climbed the mountain to reach their ultimate goal of a state championship.
In fact, two early first-round ousters are still burned in the memories of seniors Mandeldove and Marshall, who vow that the chemistry they've built with different legions of teammates over the last four years will finally pay off this year.
"We're so pumped and we're ready," Mandeldove said. "We feel like it's our time. No one really respects us, and we want everybody to respect us."