The Best Team You’ve Never Seen

North Augusta High School’s girls basketball team posed with the coaching staff, cheerleaders and others after they won their first state title in 2017. They have since won two more titles in a row and will play for a fourth straight championship this Saturday.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the girls’ basketball team over at North Augusta High School. The Lady Jackets, winners of three straight state titles, will play for a fourth this Saturday in Columbia, S.C.

That probably isn’t news to you. Again, you’ve heard about the Lady Jackets. But have you seen them?

You meant to go see them after they won the first title. Then, they went back-to-back, and you missed out again. Honest mistake. It’s two years later, and these young ladies just can’t lose.

Still, you haven’t seen them. Hell, I haven’t seen them either. The last time I saw them, they rolled Wilson High School 61-37 in the state championship. I’ll never forget that game because one of the young ladies from my home church heaved the ball toward the basket as time expired.

It went in. 

I was on the baseline for that game. In fact, I was in prime position to get that last-second shot. I didn’t, because, in that moment, I became a fan. 

I was a fan of my church member. I was a fan of what these young ladies and a team from our area accomplished. I was a fan stuck in that moment — so shocked that I didn’t even take the picture of the last few seconds.

It wasn’t just a fresh feeling — the feeling of seeing a team win its first title. It was, unfortunately, a fleeting feeling.

I spoke to then-coach Crystal Cummings, the architect of this dominant run, a few weeks later. Her approach to basketball wasn’t only about the physical nature of the game. It was also about her psychological approach to the game.

North Augusta’s mascot was perfect for Cummings’ pressing, man-to-man (excuse me, woman-to-woman) defensive style, and to say they swarmed their opponents would be an understatement.

That should have clinched it for me — and us. It didn’t.

Our collective failure to appreciate this program and its accomplishments has turned into a literal sign of disrespect. Upon entrance of North Augusta’s city limits, there is a sign that commemorates the Lady Jackets’ three consecutive championships. The sign itself hasn’t changed, just a few of the numbers, which have literally been glossed over the last two years.

Remember when the sign read, “’17”? Then, “’17-18”? Now, it reads “’17, ’18, ’19.” The numbers are all scrunched together. Not even our local and state governments give these young ladies they respect they deserve.

It’s a clear indication that we aren’t as forward-thinking and progressive as we pretend to be — and I’m saying this as a fan of women’s basketball and sports in general. Part of the tragedy of Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s deaths were the impact that they had on women’s sports, and specifically basketball. We hailed Kobe as a champion for women’s sports and Gianna as the future, yet our mourning was about the Bryant surname more than it was about women’s sports.

Just to be clear, this isn’t so much a rebuke, as it is a challenge. Think about it — how does the city of North Augusta, and virtually any city in the state of South Carolina respond to a championship football team? There are high school programs that haven’t won a football title in decades, and those teams are celebrated as conquering heroes. 

Here’s the thing — we SHOULD celebrate those accomplishments. We should likewise celebrate the UCONN-type run that our own Lady Jackets are currently enjoying.

What’s exciting in this moment is that it only takes a singular action to change the narrative of these Lady Jackets from the best team never seen to the best team ever seen. They’ll take on an understandably vengeful and challenging South Pointe High School team this Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena. 

It’s worth mentioning that Colonial Life is the home arena of the top-ranked women’s basketball team in the country — the University of South Carolina. The Lady Gamecocks won the title in 2016-17, which was the same season that the Lady Jackets won their crown. What’s remarkable is that the Lady Jackets haven’t relinquished their title since.

There’s been a petition going around on social media to give the Lady Jackets a real celebration. With respect to that petition, the biggest endorsement we can give these young ladies is to drive up to Columbia on Saturday and cheer them on, win or lose. Oh, and keep cheering next year, and the year after that.

And speaking of petitions and signing, can we get these young ladies a new sign? Hope that’s not too much to ask.

2 thoughts on “The Best Team You’ve Never Seen”

  1. Outstanding article!!!!! These young women are living present history!!!! I’ve made every championship game even though my daughter graduated after her second championship ring in 2018. This will be the first championship game I miss because Sarah and Lander are playing in the conference playoffs at the same time. I even drove from LANDER last year to the championship game. Why? THEY HAVE EARNED AND DESERVE OUR TIME! I’m going to be honest, the city and school district has not done enough for these young women. 5 straight legitimate runs at the state championship!!!!!


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