By Brian Paglia
Mundy's Mill's girls basketball team has enjoyed a run of success over the past three seasons that is almost unmatched in the Southern Crescent. The Lady Tigers have averaged 20.3 wins a season since head coach Lonnie Farmer took over in 2007 and made three consecutive state tournament appearances.
During that span, a win in the state tournament has eluded the Lady Tigers. But Farmers says participating in the Eagle's Landing Christian Christmas Hooptacular this past weekend -- and winning it for the second straight year -- offered the Lady Tigers a true test that prepares them for changing their state tournament history.
Though the tournament championship was an exciting accomplishment, Farmer said the dynamic of the tournament environment was even more valuable for his team.
"Any time you're in the tournament environment, it prepares you for the region tournament and the state tournament," Farmer said. "You want to be able to understand that to have a chance at a championship you have to win and advance. Every game's important. If you lose one, you're out of the tournament. That's always good to put your kids in that type of environment."
Mundy's Mill (11-3) cruised to the tournament championship Tuesday, winning each of its three games by double digits, including a 66-44 victory over Union Grove in the championship game, and Farmer said the level of play in the tournament improved dramatically from last season.
Perhaps that suggests Mundy's Mill is poised for another second-half run. Last season, the Lady Tigers won 12 of 13 games after winning the Christmas Hooptacular and qualified for the state tournament again. But the season ended all too familiarly -- a first-round loss.
After a 61-40 victory over Newnan on Dec. 15, Farmer was critical of his team's focus despite the lopsided victory. He'd begun to think after three seasons of easy wins that complacency might have set in with his team.
That's another advantage the Hooptacular tournament offered.
"It gives them something to play for," Farmer said. "A lot of times success breeds complacency. We've won 20 or more games the last three of four years and sometimes we feel like we're just going to intimidate people by walking on the floor.
"In this tournament I really like the fact that they improved the level of competition this year. We were challenged every time and we rose to the occasion."
So here is Mundy's Mill in position to make the state tournament again, brushing aside lighter opponents, battling against Class AAAAA powerhouse Westlake for region supremacy and playing its exciting brand of up-tempo basketball.
But this time the Lady Tigers aren't dismissing their competition, especially if it makes them better come state tournament time.
"Of course we're looking to avenge the two region losses that we have, but we're not looking past East Coweta, Lovejoy or Riverdale. They are three very tough opponents," Farmer said. "Matter of fact, East Coweta and Riverdale made state out of our region last year, so we're definitely not looking past them, and Lovejoy is a difficult a rival for us every time we play."