By Derrick Mahone
For those outside the Southern Crescent, the name Dutchtown hasn't been a household name in high school basketball circles. The program has been around since 2004, and few could tell you where the school is located.
Forget about naming any of the team's top players. Aside from a few Internet bloggers, Dutchtown didn't resonate any championship talk outside of Henry County or Region 4-AAAA this season despite returning its entire lineup from the previous playoff season.
However, all that has probably changed for the Lady Bulldogs program after a run to the Class AAAA semifinals Wednesday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
The season ended for the Lady Bulldogs with a 75-56 loss to fourth-ranked Northwest Whitfield, but Dutchtown is now on the basketball map.
Thanks to a talented group of senior players, and a hard-nose former Attack Apache helicopter pilot, Dutchtown toiled among the basketball elite this season.
There is no mistaking what legacy this senior class has left for the McDonough school. As juniors, they helped the team obtain and win its first state playoff game.
The bar was raised this season as the team won the Region 4-AAAA championship and reached the final four. Its
"This group has raised the bar high, unfortunately seniors have to graduate," said coach Angela Williams, who was an U.S. Army pilot prior to embarking on a coaching career. "We are definitely going to miss them. They were by far the most talented group we have had here."
For most of the later part of the season, Dutchtown was in the top 10 in the coaches' poll. When the final rankings are released in the next week, the Lady Bulldogs should be no worst than fourth in the final poll. Prior to the loss to Northwest, the Lady Bulldogs had won 16 straight games.
It appears the program is on the raise since its merger beginnings. Dutchtown's only winning seasons and playoff appearances in school history coincided with Williams and the Strickland twins -Brittney and Alyssa' - arrival last season. The Lady Bulldogs are 48-8 under Williams. Before her arrival, Dutchtown girls basketball went 33-64 the previous four seasons.
However, a major rebuilding job is ahead for Williams and her staff.
She must replace team leader Brittney Strickland, a sure all-state pick and the versatile Abria Trice. Both went over the 1,000-point mark for their career.
Brittney, and sister, Alyssa, are headed to Alabama A&M on a basketball scholarship. Trice is expected to sign with Prairie View A&M next month.
"I'm proud of what we have accomplished this season," Brittney Strickland said after Wednesday's loss. "It was a long great season. I'm definitely happy about it."
Now, the hard task begins for Williams to build on the success of the last two season. It will not be an easy chore with four starters, and it top reserve graduating. Aisha Atwater, a part-time starter, is the Lady Bulldogs most experienced player returning. Finding some consistent scoring will be the key.
"Nobody expected us to go this far," Williams said. "No matter what happened in (Northwest) game, we made history at the school."
The Lady Bulldogs will be hoping that history repeats itself next season.