Fans and family members of Westwood’s girls basketball team storm the floor at Mercer University’s Hawkins Arena after the Lady Wildcats pulled off an upset of state powerhouse Arlington Christian, 72-70, in overtime of the GISA Class AA state final Saturday in Macon. (Larry G. Williams/Special to The Herald)

Fans and family members of Westwood’s girls basketball team storm the floor at Mercer University’s Hawkins Arena after the Lady Wildcats pulled off an upset of state powerhouse Arlington Christian, 72-70, in overtime of the GISA Class AA state final Saturday in Macon. (Larry G. Williams/Special to The Herald)

MACON — They stormed the court in wave after wave, a giant ball of orange coming together, shouting, screaming, hugging and crying.

Lots and lots of crying.

“Was I crying? Was I really? I didn’t notice,’’ said Westwood girls basketball coach Jenni Smith, whose eyes were beet red and whose face was soaked in tears. “I don’t have the words.”

No one did.

Westwood had just pulled out it’s second inspirational victory in three days, somehow beating four-time state champion Arlington Christian, 72-70, in overtime to capture the GISA Class AA state title.

The kids in this no-quit, conquer-the-giant program have been called the Westwood Wonders before, but this win was as sweet as any — a victory that gave the small school in Camilla its first basketball title and came after the girls had fallen in the Class A state title two years in a row.

“We made history,’’ shouted sophomore Morgan Singleton, who has started for three years. “We were tired of losing and being second. We did it! It is so exciting. Oh my gosh, I am still shaking.’’

Believe it, Westwood.

This is no dream — just a dream season. It was Westwood Wonderful.

The history came wrapped in emotion and grit from a small-town team with a small lineup and an enormous heart — and it came after the season all but died on an air-ball shot and then found new life when Rachel Harrell grabbed the missed shot, looked up and watched her inside putback save the season to send the game to overtime.

It came in what has to be considered the biggest upset in all of GISA. Arlington (23-4) had won four titles in a row in Class AAA before stepping down to AA this year. Tiny Westwood made the move from Class A up to AA.

“Their school was a lot bigger and their team was so much bigger than us,’’ Smith said. “There were some serious mismatches.’’

Westwood (24-3) had to knock off the defending AA champ Gatewood in an incredible upset Thursday in the semifinal and then had to face Arlington’s front that included Ana Anderson, a 6-foot-4 senior who has committed to Division I Mercer, and 6-foot Rakeah Williams, who destroyed Terrell Academy with a 27-point, 14-rebound night in the semifinals. She scored 18 before fouling out late in regulation Saturday, while Anderson scored 15.

“They were big, real big,” said Singleton, who at 5-7 battled inside all night and finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds. But it was Rachel Harrell who grabbed the biggest rebound in Westwood history.

Harrell had a gutsy and unforgettable performance, scoring 28 points to lead the way, but the play that will go down in Westwood lore is the one she made to save a season.

The Lady Wildcats were trailing, 66-64, as the final seconds ticked away in regulation when the best Sister Act in GISA connected on a play for the ages.

Perra Harrell, a freshman who had scored eight points, fired Westwood’s final shot. The ball never got there. It died just short of the basket and all was lost. That’s when Rachel, a junior, appeared like magic, snatched the air ball beneath the rim and somehow got a shot off that dropped in at the buzzer. It was 66-66, and the Camilla crowd at Mercer’s Hawkins Arena went bananas.

“When I saw the shot fall short, I was devastated,’’ Perra said. “Then Rachel got it and put it in. I went from complete devastation to complete excitement.’’

So did all of Westwood.

“I didn’t have time to think,’’ said Rachel, who was right under the basket. “I just put the ball up. I didn’t know what else to do. I have never been so happy to see someone shoot an air ball. If she would have hit the rim I couldn‘t have gotten the ball in time.’’

Of course, in the Harrell household, the play will go down as the greatest assist in Westwood history.

“At the end of (regulation), I just didn’t feel like it was going to end,’’ Singleton said. “When Perra took the shot and missed I was just saying, ‘Oh my God!’ And then Rachel came out of nowhere and makes the shot. Your heart just drops when she misses and then Rachel makes it. You can’t describe it.”

And it was Rachel, standing at the free throw line with 9.6 seconds left in OT, nailing the second free throw — after watching her first roll away — to give Westwood a 72-70 lead once overtime began. It was her free throw with 2:15 left in OT that lifted Westwood to a 69-68 lead, and after Larisa Bishop missed a shot for Arlington, Singleton grabbed the long rebound and sent a pass down court to Rachel, who drove for a 71-68 lead with 1:42 left. Bishop, who led Arlington with 22 points, including 12 in the fourth and OT, hit a drive for her final points of the night to close to 71-70.

Both teams then missed shots, and Westwood had a chance to drain the clock, but a turnover gave Arlington a chance to win it with 39 seconds left. Bishop, who had burned down the nets all night, missed her third shot in a row, and Perra grabbed the rebound and got the ball to Rachel, who was fouled with 9.6 seconds left. Arlington waited until 1.8 to call timeout, and Bishop fired a long 3 that skipped over the top of the backboard and into Westwood history.

“It was the greatest feeling in the world,’’ said Rachel, who was guarding Bishop along with Callie Smith, who scored 13 points and played like a defensive wizard all night, at the end of the game. “I jumped so high. I don’t know how high I jumped.”

Then she cried her eyes out.

“I just started crying and couldn’t stop,” she said. “I didn’t know what else to do. Then I saw my dad crying, and I started crying even harder.’’

After Thursday’s win, Singleton said Westwood was “just a gritty team,’’ and she said it again Saturday.

“We have grit,’’ she said. “We have to. We are so small, and nobody gave us a chance to win. From the beginning of the year when we moved from Class A to AA, nobody gave us a chance, and no one thought we would beat Arlington. We heard so much about them. Everyone was saying how good they are and how big they are. But we have grit, and we are a family. No one on this team is going to let anyone run them over.’’

Jenni Smith knows that better than anyone.

“I can’t put this into words,’’ she said. “It was such an intense, physical and emotional ball game. I was on the bench, and I’m exhausted.

“I knew Rachel was going to get the ball. I saw it (coming), and when she got it, I was just hoping she would have enough time to get the shot off. She did.

“This team is so unselfish. This team does have grit. It’s just something these kids have inside them. I don’t know if you can teach it. They have it, and it’s contagious.’’

In the end, that’s why she believes her kids won the title.

“I think these kids really believed in themselves, and believe that nobody is going to give you anything. You have to take it,” the coach said. “It’s that and hard work. They did it, and did it the only way they know how, scrapping and fighting to the end.”

Comments

TRUTH101 1 year, 9 months ago

Alright now lets match them up with their counter-parts Mitchell County....They should win easily, right? LOL

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dominiquedamac 1 year, 9 months ago

hating on the white schools as usual...y'all are some broken records...y'all say the same thing over and over again...

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camillaallstars88 1 year, 9 months ago

History? History is the Camilla Massacre the largest massacre in Ga's History, where most of those kids Great great Grandfathers hung Blacks on the tree at the COURT HOUSE thats History. Westwood was built on Racism its not like Sherwood or Deerfield. The sad thing is this WESWOOD team will get more love in the city of Camilla than MB's 3peat team, because all the city's business owners children grandchildren or great grands go to WESTWOOD. Sad but TRUE! All this is, is a win for RACISM!!!! more years for the city to be divided

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The_Dude 1 year, 9 months ago

This may be the dumbest comment in the HISTORY of comments. True Grit... it's something the public schools around here could learn a thing or two about. You're too dumb to know it, but comments like this one only continue the racial divide.

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TRUTH101 1 year, 9 months ago

Funny....The headmaster of DWS said the same thing as Camillaallstar.......

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Shiznit 1 year, 9 months ago

Have you always been retarded or is this a recent development? Maybe if we would have hung your grandparents from those trees we wouldn't have to hear such comments from an incompetent individual such as yourself. If it was a win for racism then I hope they win many more. I love nothing more than to see those kids succeed and I am proud to see any team from camilla succeed in any event. I would hope everyone would fill the same way. It's not racial. It's hometown pride.

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tiredofyourbull 1 year, 9 months ago

I hope you choke on your words of stupidity.

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revolutionnow 1 year, 9 months ago

According to GISA website Arlington Christian K5-12 235, Westwood K3 -12 447. They are not giant killers, they are the giants!

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Shiznit 1 year, 9 months ago

Dont be ignorant. School classification is not based on the size of the school as a whole. It's based on the number of students grades nine through twelve. For all we know Arlington christian could be only 9-12. Check the facts before you post something like this.

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woodendoor14 1 year, 9 months ago

where did you get your numbers from?? please provide a link or some sort of proof.

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revolutionnow 1 year, 9 months ago

Where did you learn to read? The source of the numbers and the classes were in my previous post. You should be proud of your team. I just don't think the underdog label really fits. Except when you play CA.

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camillaallstars88 1 year, 9 months ago

True grit lol. False sense of reality is what this is. The city just got set back 10 more years. SAD VERY SAD! THEY TEACHING RACISM, its not the same as Sherwood and Deerfield I'll say it again. true grit lmao they got EVERYTHING they own EVERYTHING what did they have to overcome? Half of those kids going to UGA because of their legacy not their grades REALLY true GRIT? you don't know what it is to have true grit! When your moma lights turned off and your daddy lost his job and you gotta play sports to get a decent meal TELL me about TRUE GRIT!

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tiredofyourbull 1 year, 9 months ago

Why is it the fault of the kids whose parents made something of themselves that other kids parents are having their lights cut off and lost their jobs? Your comment pretty much can be summed up with "I've made terrible life choices and now am angry at a bunch of teenage white girls for succeeding". How dumb can one person be. Those girls, nor their parents, had anything to do with a massacre but yet you had to TRY to cast a veil of hatred on their day. Instead of blaming the "white man" for your problems, look in the mirror. Your life is where it is because of choices you have made, not what happened to the black race 50-75 years ago. MLK, Jr. Did NOT intend for the black community to neglect to try and better themselves. And he sure didn't die for every street named in his honor to be lined with housing projects and eat up with drugs and crime. I truly HATE to know that MLK laid his life on the line for people who are so willing to moan, gripe, and complain because they refuse to do better. Instead of going off on some teenage girls for succeeding, how about helping by being a role model to ALL kids who want to do better. Pay the light bill for the child with no lights, or helping his dad find a new job. YOU need to do better.

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The_Dude 1 year, 9 months ago

Congratulations. You just got made a fool by all these comments. This clown thinks he knows basketball better than the coaches at Mitchell. Please, I encourage you to put in for the job. LOL. What you and 99 percent of your kind need to learn is that playing ball don't pay the bills. You gotta work!

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MitchellCoCitizen 1 year, 9 months ago

I am totally embarrassed to think that there are people out there that can write this garbage about young hard working young ladies! These young ladies and coaches put in countless time on and off the court to make their programs be the best it can be! How can idiots like you bring racism into this? Be proud of this State Champion Team! I know I am! I went to public schools in Mitchell Co but yesterday I was as proud of the Westwood Wildcats as anyone else! Job well done Lady Cats and Coaches! Proud to be a WW supporter!

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angelwatson 1 year, 9 months ago

to the idiot that thinks all WW people are racist, my daddys family were promenent business owners in Camilla also. My daddy was one of the "farmers" and businessmen that had a hand in the start of WW. You think we had it good just because we went to a private school?.........well, i spent many a night trying to keep myself warm the best way i could at night because we couldn't get the heat fixed......many mornings boiling water and getting dressed by the fireplace in the mornings before school, no air conditioning, all the things you ignorate ass thinks don't happen to white folks. My daddy busted his butt working so much to provide for us, and to make sure we went to a school with small classes, good faculty, one on one excellent education, and he worked himself literally TO DEATH doing so. It kinda makes me chuckle a little to hear we are racist, especially while I watch you make these racist comments toward us. Now who's the idiot? CONGRATULATIONS LADY CATS!!!!!!!!

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reallydude000 1 year, 9 months ago

Can I just say this...I went to Westwood...and I graduated with HONORS because of my grades (not because of who my parents were or my last name) and my parents busted their butts and put luxuries aside for their children for a good education. I also went to UGA because of my grades (not because of legacy). I am the first in my family to go to UGA and a four year college at all. Its not about legacy, its about education and opportunities.

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HOOPSFORTHESOUL 1 year, 9 months ago

Ok what do that have to do with Basketball. Man you on some b-lls---t. These young ladies just own a state championship and you;re throwing the race card. The MB program has been out of order for a while .Theres a select few who want to run basketball in the area and they're outdated or don't know new techniques of coaching. It's the same on the girls side as well. It's always drama in both programs and they don't teach fundamentals at all. It;s the same thing in the neighboring town of Pelham.All you ever hear or see ids the coaches raving about themselves or selected players never no strategy or building teams for now and the future. Give the kids their respect and shut the hell up with the race card!!

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King_Wizard 1 year, 9 months ago

As person who spent a lot of time at public schools in the area and had the privilege to graduate from Westwood, I find these accusations false, off topic, and completely IGNORANT!! Its people that make accusations like this that make Camilla racist. The past is the past, mistakes were made and many have been forgiven. If you have a problem then pack ya bags and move from Mitchell County. Why start all this drama about race? Why not be supportive of this accomplishment in history that these girls have made. A great team full of hardworking and true fighters that have won the schools first title in womens basketball. many of these girls play ball with the public school players. And the women's coaches are two of the best people in Mitchell county that I know, who not only care about their team but also other teams in the county and for one of the public schools she used to coach for! This is a true Cinderella story for a team that has been fighting more and more each season and taking one step further each season and have finally got the recognition they deserve. The team is filled with a great group of girls who have been working for this title since they were handed a jersey. And the coaches are the best in the county, hell I would even say the state. So lets leave racism out of it an give this team the support they deserve!! Contacts to the Weatwood Lady Wildcats and the coaches and I hope next season is just as great!!

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King_Wizard 1 year, 9 months ago

Why bring race into this? The Westwood Lady Wildcats have won their FIRST state championship, why not support this group of hardworking young ladies who have been practicing for this day since they were handed a jersey. This team defines dedication , hard work ethics, and are a prime example of sportsmanship. Not only are the players great but the coaches are two of the best people I know who care more for others than themselves. The couch support her team, teams in the county, in the region, and the nearby public school she used to coach at!! Very proud if this team, congrats to you all!! I hope the next season is just as successful!

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King_Wizard 1 year, 9 months ago

Race has nothing to do with it. It's people like y'all that go around throwing the race card at every little thing that still gives Camilla a racist bio. Here's some news for you, you ain't forced to live in Mitchell county, so if you got so many problems with it then pack up and leave! Now onto the subject at matter. First off congratulations to the Westwood Lady Wildcats on their first state championship!! This team defines hard work, dedication, and are a prime example of true sportsmanship. This group of young ladies have been working hard for this title since they were handed a jersey. They stuck their nose to the grind stone and got the job done. They are lead by two amazing coaches, two of the best people I know, that care more for others than themselves. The coach cares for her team, teams in region, teams in the county, and a huge fan of the public school nearby she used to coach at. This team has been fighting their way up the tourney latter for the past several seasons, well ladies and gentlemen here they stand now as GISA AA State Champions!!! There is no team more deserving. Congrats to you all, and hoping for next season to be just as successful.

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King_Wizard 1 year, 9 months ago

^^Guess who was hitting post instead of edit again... Sorry folks

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mandyjones 1 year, 9 months ago

Romans 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.
So quit complain and put your faith in the Lord. I’m so tired of race being put into everything. The only people who are raciest are the ones making stupid comments. I love the Wildcats and I work my butt off to send my kids to a good school so they can get the best they can out of this world and its stupid people like you why this country has go to hell in hand basket! Let me guess you voted for Obama right? It’s because of your vote that our Military is getting cut, and the only people working in this country are the ones getting their salary cut. Meanwhile I’m sure you’re sitting at home on the couch getting free rent, free food, and probably a free cell phone! So don’t tell me about getting electricity cut off! Have another kid and get some more government money and maybe you can pay for your BMW and still have lights! By the way I’m not a coward and hide behind a username. My full name is at the top of this page!

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King_Wizard 1 year, 9 months ago

I couldn't agree more! They vote for the candidate that makes it easier for them to sit on their ass while they rest of working class get salary cuts and have to pay for their government check for their kids and them. And they say WW students get into UGA because of legacy, hell they should look at the SAT scores and realize they are the highest in county. As a WW graduate there is nothing more satisfying as to see the students succeed in everything from the courts to the classroom.

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SsstJdj 1 year, 9 months ago

These racial comments make me sick! Haters will always hate! You know abosultely nothing about Westwood coaches or players. I'm guessing you are one of those people that immediatley go to the race card when you have nothing else! Jealousy is all this is. These girls worked hard and prevailed and that's it. Be proud that a team from your community did this instead of grasping at things to complain about. Westwood's coach is one of the best I have ever seen! I played basketball years ago and she was one of my first coaches. She teaches teamwork which is what makes this team so unselfish and great! Westwood girls and coaches, ignore these ignorant comments from ignorant people. I am very proud of you!

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WildcatFan11 1 year, 9 months ago

history [ˈhɪstərɪ ˈhɪstrɪ] n pl -ries 1. (Historical Terms) a. a record or account, often chronological in approach, of past events, developments, etc. b. (as modifier) a history book a history play 2. (Historical Terms) all that is preserved or remembered of the past, esp in written form 3. (Historical Terms) the discipline of recording and interpreting past events involving human beings 4. (Historical Terms) past events, esp when considered as an aggregate 5. an event in the past, esp one that has been forgotten or reduced in importance their quarrel was just history 6. the past, background, previous experiences, etc., of a thing or person the house had a strange history 7. (Electronics & Computer Science / Telecommunications) Computing a stored list of the websites that a user has recently visited 8. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) a play that depicts or is based on historical events 9. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) a narrative relating the events of a character's life the history of Joseph Andrews Abbreviation (for senses 1-3) hist

Check out #3 especially, where does this say that history is only about race or the bad things that happened? My lunch is history because it has already happened and impacted me. Don't be ignorant, the educated people of the world will always call you on it!

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