CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. -- If ever there was going to be a rebuilding season for the Gordon Lee High School girls' basketball team, surely this was it.
The Lady Trojans, after all, lost four senior starters off last year's 24-7 team, including stalwarts Holli Brooks and Lesslie Bohannon, and much of the veteran defensive quickness. However, a new type of Gordon Lee team takes the floor now, one built more on a strong inside game than high-pressure defense, and it's 16-2.
It's a formula coach Lester Galyon admits he wasn't sure would work after his previous five teams averaged 24 wins a year relying on getting turnovers to sustain the offense.
"Team speed-wise, we're not as fast we've been in recent years, but I think we're a more complete team because we have an inside game," Galyon said. "We can score against people that in the past we would have had to create turnovers to score or hit outside shots. Now we've got an inside presence to go with our perimeter game.
"The success is kind of a surprise to me because we lost four great seniors and I thought it would be tough to replace them. We haven't really replaced them, but we've adapted, and to me we're harder to guard."
The Lady Trojans feature four players between nine and 14 points, including a pair of imposing post players in 5-foot-10 state high jump champion Lil Bradbury and 6-4 sophomore Katelyn Lee. They combine to average 24 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots a game.
Point guard Kassidy Blevins leads the team with 13.7 points per game, to go with four steals and four assists.
The transformation from a running team to a half-court-oriented offense almost didn't happen, according to senior guard Lexis Robertson.
"When we lost really good seniors last year, nobody thought we had a chance to be very good," Robertson said. "Then when we tried to put in a new offense this summer, it didn't work. We got killed all summer. In the fall, we started using our inside game and we found out nobody could stop Kassidy or Tree [Lee] or Lil, and if I can throw the ball into any of them, they will score.
"It used to be making perimeter shots with us, and we could win if we hit them. Now we play more as a team. ... We just want to win."
Winning is what the girls' teams are accustomed to at Gordon Lee. From the two-time state champion softball team to the two-time area champion volleyball team to the golf and track teams, the Lady Trojans are annual winners. That mentality, according to Galyon, is a big part of the success in Chickamauga.
"Lexis is a two-time state champion in softball, and Lil is a high jump state champion," he noted. "They've both had individual success in other sports, and that's helped a lot because if you have the attitude that you're supposed to win, that's half the battle. So much of the game is mental and our girls expect to win, and a good part of that comes from the success we've had in other sports."
The emergence of Lee, Blevins and junior shooting guard Katie Barger also is a big part of the unexpected success. And though the Lady Trojans aren't as deep as in recent years, they feel, to a player, that this is a team built for postseason success.
"When we lost to Wesleyan last year in the playoffs, it was a big mind game for us," Bradbury said. "I felt we would have played better if we played tougher teams, and this year we have and I think we're more prepared for that. There are few teams we can't match up with."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...