Developing high school sports teams can be a daunting task for many prep coaches, but that is the aim of Georgia Military Prep School’s head coaches James Lunsford and Shawn Dennis.
GMC Prep continued its quest toward that goal over the weekend, as the Bulldogs struggled against some stout competition in the Portal Holiday Classic in Portal.
The boys’ squad went 1-2 over a three-game stretch, picking up a 58-52 win over Jenkins County to open up the tournament before falling 61-45 to Portal and 75-69 to Southeast Bulloch in games two and three.
“It went well, but it was a little up and down,” Lunsford, boys’ head coach, said. “The kids played well —I’m real proud of them. I think if we’re going to develop the kind of program that we want at GMC, we have to go play teams like these.”
Quatavius Brisco led the charge for the Bulldogs in game one with 18 points with Troy Campfield following with 10 points, 16 rebounds and three steals.
Brisco scored eight points to lead a struggling GMC Prep offense against Portal in game two.
“They just played a lot tougher than us and did a better job,” Lunsford said. “We just couldn’t get our offense going, but played good defense. I thought we played a little tired. I thought playing hard the first night, maybe we weren’t quite ready to play again.”
Despite falling to Southeast Bulloch, Campfield battled back for a 25-point performance in game three and 15 rebounds.
Preparing to face their region rival, Wilkinson County, on Friday, Lunsford hopes the tough early season will prep the team for the challenges ahead.
“We finished 7-5 for the first half of the year, but we just hope the schedule that we had will prepare us for the rest of the way,” he said. “We learned a lot, but I just hope that we learned enough so that we can not make the mistakes we made in the first half.”
For the girls, the Portal Holiday Classic served as a confidence booster, despite falling in all three contests.
The biggest surprise to Dennis, the girls’ head coach, may have come in the Lady Bulldogs’ efforts in game one against Long County, where the girls took the game into overtime only to come up short four points at the buzzer.
“I think we’re starting to figure out offensively, starting to trust each other and looking for the open pass, and looking for shots and taking them with some confidence,” he said. “They’re playing like they played this summer. They’re a little more scrappy, and they’re diving on the floor for loose balls —they’re getting after it.
“They’re doing what we’re asking and playing hard. They’re starting to believe. You can see it in the way that they play — they’re playing for each other.”
Dennis admits the defense has continued to get better as well.
“We’re more aggressive when we play man,” he said. “It translates over to the offense a little bit and it pushes the pace. As long as we’re being active and aggressive, it’s OK.”
Having a breakthrough season so far, Karlie Harding continued to lead GMC Prep in the tournament, scoring in the double digits in each of the games with her best performance coming in the final contest against Southeast Bulloch where she earned 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.
“She’s scoring, she’s distributing the ball, she’s playing great defense — right now she’s doing everything for us,” Dennis said. “For us, she can score inside, and her shots are starting to fall so she can score outside. I think right now she’s our leading scorer, our second-leading rebounder and leading us in steals, so she’s doing a bit of it all.”
Though the team continues to search for its first win of the season, Dennis admits having a player like Harding may be the Lady Bulldogs’ secret to success in the second half of the season.
“I knew she had the potential, but I wasn’t quite sure she’d be our go-to player, but here lately she’s been stepping up and leading us,” he said. “It wasn’t a huge shock, but more so a pleasant surprise.”