Photo by Darryl Maxie
Strong Rock Christian players celebrate their 100th all-time victory with a raucous student section full of fans who came prepared for the occasion.
A.C. McCullers has come a long way from 1968 at Northwest Whitfield, the setting in which his coaching career began. The winding path took him through the dominant 1990s at Morrow, where his girls basketball teams won four championships in a five-year stretch.
After 800-some-odd victories, milestones no longer surprise McCullers, who shared in another one as Strong Rock Christian’s fifth-year coach Friday night. The Lady Patriots made it to 100 all-time wins, few easier than this.
They dominated a winless, powerless and, for nearly three quarters, scoreless Tech team, cruising to a 52-4 victory in a Region 9-A mismatch that came as no surprise to anybody who has followed the Lady Titans. A team simply struggling to learn basketball’s fundamentals has been held to single-digit scoring in 13 of 19 games.
Before a full gym at a Senior Night regular-season finale, Strong Rock took it easy on Tech, substituting liberally, stalling on offense in the second half — desperately trying not to run the score up on a severely overmatched team. Still, the 48-point beating was far from the ugliest the Lady Titans have suffered in a season of growing pains. They’ve had 11 worse than this.
The outcome was a foregone conclusion from the moment Strong Rock supporters printed off hundreds of sheets with “100” printed on them — well before tipoff, to be certain. The Lady Patriots celebrated as energetically as they might had the opponent been four-time defending champion Wesleyan, after Candler Gregory’s 12 points and eight from Katie Jones led to their 19th win in 24 games and their sixth in a row.
“It’s just amazing,” said Jones, who has played since the program began as an independent junior varsity in 2007-08, her eighth-grade year. “I couldn’t have thought about this in the beginning. We just wanted to build the program and set it up for the players to come.”
Strong Rock still has a little to learn about celebrating, particularly when it comes to using silver helium balloons to spell out the three digits in “100.” If one slips out of hand, as it did shortly before the game finished, 90 wins float up into the rafters and those on the ground are left holding a “10.”
Luckily, somebody with foresight thought to include two balloons in the shape of basketballs, and they served as the zeroes when Lady Patriots supporters photographed the moment.
Strong Rock scored the game’s first 45 points, largely because Tech’s defense consisted of girls screaming in the often futile hope of distracting a Lady Patriot attempting a layup.
When Tech finally broke through, with Diamond Reese banking home a shot as 49.2 seconds remained in the third quarter, the entire gym applauded.
Shanteal Weldon added the final Tech basket with 3:50 to play. According to the sketchy records of prepcountry.com, the Lady Titans are 1-53 in four seasons, with — as near as anybody can tell — 42 consecutive defeats.
Strong Rock was hoping that Paideia defeated First Presbyterian Day, to secure third seeding for the region tournament next week at Paideia.
A First Presbyterian victory would cause a three-way tie with the Lady Patriots and Greenforest Christian, necessitating a weekend coin flip to determine the third, fourth and fifth seeds for the tournament.
Asked what this milestone victory means to him in a career full of them, McCullers said, “It means they started from scratch, a bunch of kids bought into the program, went to camp and worked and worked and worked. It’s an exciting time for our program.”