Mt. Zion gears up for semifinals

By Doug Gorman

The Mt. Zion Lady Bulldogs have made it clear that state rankings don't mean anything.

With a 19-11 record, Clayton County's last surviving basketball team has never cracked the gabasketball.net high school coaches poll.

It' doesn't matter. The Lady Bulldogs have turned their season into a magical ride and starting Wednesday night at the new Gwinnett Area, head coach Dock Gammage's team opens play in the Class AAAAA Final Four when it takes on top-ranked Collins Hill in a 7 p.m. tip off.

Collins Hill enters the game with a 31-0 record. The Lady Bulldogs clinched a spot in this week's Class AAAAA Final Four Saturday night by beating Riverdale 52-42 in a game played at the Macon Coliseum.

Shaka Dennison led the way for Mt. Zion with 16 points.

Collins Hill advanced to Wednesday's game with a victory against Redan.

Riverdale was hoping to get back to the Final Four for the second straight year.

Mt. Zion earned its bid to the state tournament with a third-place finish at the Region 2-AAAAA tournament.

From there, the Lady Bulldogs went into an upset mode, knocking off Colquitt County, Beach and Riverdale to reach the Class AAAAA Final Four.

Through their state tournament run, the Lady Bulldogs have had to silence doubters.

"Nobody believed in us," said Gammage. "We have used that to our advantage. People have written on websites that we don't belong, but we haven't listen to all that."

Gammage wasn't even the head coach of the team when the season first started.

Edwin Turnipseed began the year on the Lady Bulldogs' bench, but he left at Christmas to take a position at the University of Georgia.

Gammage was brought over from the boys' team to serve as girls' head coach.

Turnipseed has kept his hand in the season by attending several of the team's games and cheering from the stands.

"Edwin deserves much of the credit," said Gammage. "I'm just continuing what he started."

They said it best: We saw the bad things people were saying about our chances against Riverdale and that made us upset," Shaka Dennison? "They're believing they can win every time they step on the floor," Mt. Zion head coach Dock Gammage.

The Last time it happened: The Morrow Lady Mustangs were the last team from Clayton County to win a girls state basketball title.

That happened in 1993 when A.C. McCullers was the girls coach at Morrow.

McCullers, who is now the women's coach at Clayton State won four state titles at Morrow.

About the opponent: Collins Hill has built a dynasty when it comes to the girls basketball program. This is the Eagles third trip to the Final Four in the last four years. Last season the squad finished with a 21-6 record. The previous two years the Eagles won back-to-back state titles.

In addition to beating Redan Saturday night, the Eagles also defeated Marietta and Lakeside-DeKalb in state tournament action.

Despite bringing an undefeated record into Wednesday night's contest, Collins Hill only has four seniors on the team.

A child will lead them: Despite all of its talent and experience, the Lady Eagles' leading scorer is Mia Moore who is just a freshman.

Familiar territory: Collins Hill has already played one game this season in the Gwinnett Arena when the finals of the Deep South Classic were played at the new complex.