In the dance: LaFayette girls’ 75-year wait is over

The 2019-20 girls basketball team at LaFayette will go down in history as the northwest Georgia school's first to qualify for the state tournament. LaFayette had been the only school to field a team in 1945, the year of the first GHSA state tournament for girls, that hadn't qualified - until now.
The 2019-20 girls basketball team at LaFayette will go down in history as the northwest Georgia school's first to qualify for the state tournament. LaFayette had been the only school to field a team in 1945, the year of the first GHSA state tournament for girls, that hadn't qualified - until now.

LaFayette’s girls basketball team is in the state basketball tournament for the first time, and the history isn’t lost on Holly Rhudy, the LaFayette alumna whose dream in college was to come home and make the program better.

Rhudy’s Ramblers will play at Region 8 champion St. Pius tonight in the Class AAAA first round.

‘’I am overwhelmed with emotions about getting the opportunity to take the first-ever girls basketball team to the state tournament,’’ Rhudy said. ‘’This means everything to me since I was born and raised in LaFayette and played ball there.’’

The first girls tournament was held in 1945. LaFayette, a Walker County school about 20 miles south of Chattanooga, is the only school that existed or fielded a girls team at the time that hadn’t qualified for state until now, according to Becky Taylor of the Georgia High School Basketball Project.

Until many years, only region champions made it. It wasn’t until 1996 that four teams per region qualified, and it’s now becoming more rare to find girls teams that haven’t made it. Cambridge (opened in 2012) and North Paulding (2007) also qualified for the tournament for the first time this season.

LaFayette has come close several times but always failed to get out of its region tournament. In 2007, the Ramblers were 10-0 in their subregion but were upset in the region tourney by Coosa in a close game.

Rhudy became head coach for the 2015-16 season. She played for the Ramblers in the 1990s and then for Chattanooga State and Bryan College. Rhudy has taught and coached at LaFayette schools for 17 years, and this is her fifth season as head coach.

‘’I always knew that I wanted to become a teacher and coach,’’ she said. ‘’I am blessed that I get to come back and coach at the school I once played for.’’

When her current group of seniors were freshman, the team finished 1-23. The next year, they won four games, and then 12.

This season, LaFayette is 15-11. The team’s five seniors are Marquila Howell, Anna Valle and Nicky Yancy. But the Ramblers have some younger talent that should keep the momentum going. LaTyah Barber, a junior, scored the 1,000th point of her career in the region playoffs last week. She and sophomore Mykeria Johnson made the all-Region 6 team.

‘’My dream is to give my players opportunities that I did not have as a player myself,’’ Rhudy said. “Their hard work is paying off now, and the coaches, school and community could not be more proud of this team that is making history.’’

ajc.com

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