By Doug Gorman
As the school year starts to wind down, it hard not to reflect on some of the bright spots that have happened on the local sports scene.
To me one of the most amazing stories was the turnaround of Stockbridge girls basketball team.
After years of being on the outside looking in at state tournament time, the Lady Tigers partied at the big dance this year, winning more than 20-games and advancing to the second round of the Class AAAA tournament.
The turnaround started with the hiring of head coach Tondra Irby, who breathed new life into a team that was already loaded with potential.
Irby has passion for the game, and she is teaching her players to love it too.
Stockbridge's new coach hit the lottery in her first season when Oreonna Taylor joined the squad as a surprise move in from upstate New York.
Taylor became an instant spark for the Lady Tigers with her play at the point guard. Taylor's skill and personality made her a hit with her teammates, as she adjusted quickly to her new home.
As word got out about the new Georgia resident and her ability to play basketball, recruiters were hot on her trail with the University of Kentucky finally winning out over another SEC team, South Carolina.
It isn't surprising Taylor is getting the chance to play basketball at the major college level. She was groomed from an early age to play the game.
At her signing last week, her father told the story of building a court in the family's backyard, and it became one her favorite places to hang out. The young basketball player spent hours honing her skills.
Stories were also told of how Taylor always competed with older players in recreation leagues and she more than held her own.
Taylor definitely added something to the 2004-2005 basketball team, but she wasn't the only reason the Lady Tigers enjoyed such as solid turnaround.
Teammate Tonishia Wimbish is also headed off to college on a basketball scholarship. Wimbish signed her letter of intent with Georgia Perimeter College. The two-year college has turned into one of the top junior-college programs in the country, earning a trip to the nationals last year.
Wimbish had opportunities to go straight to a four-year school, but she elected to start her career at the metro Atlanta school.
Believe me, she will have a chance to transfer to a bigger program when her two years are through at GPC. She will also leave a better basketball player.
Taylor and Wimbish were the cornerstones of a team that also had great chemistry. Irby made sure her team bonded, spending time together off the court, and becoming like a family.
Local basketball fans shouldn't expect the Lady Tigers to be a one-hit wonder. Wimbish and Taylor may be gone, but the groundwork is in place for continued to success next season.
Irby has big plans for the Lady Tigers this summer, including trips to basketball camps, so the best may still be yet to come for the Lady Tigers.
Doug Gorman is sports editor of the Daily. His column runs on Fridays. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org