Stephens and several members of Bowdon’s six-player senior class actually saw a good bit of playing time that winter, taking their fair share of lumps en route to a 2-19 campaign.
But fighting through those growing pains has made the Red Devilettes’ current Class AA state tournament run all the more meaningful, as Bowdon is in the postseason for the first time since 2007-08 and tonight’s 6 p.m. second-round showdown at top-seeded Calhoun marks the program’s first sweet 16 appearance since 2006-07.
“We feel great. We feel like we have a chance to win it, especially coming back from our freshman year of winning two games and now we’re actually in the sweet 16. It means a lot to all of us,” noted Stephens, who scored 23 points in the Red Devilettes’ 53-52 upset of second-seeded Greene County on Wednesday evening in Greensboro.
Third-seeded Bowdon (16-9), which has won eight of its last nine games, turned quite a few heads with its come-from-behind win over the Lady Tigers in the opening-round thriller.
“I’m just so happy. I’m just shocked, at the same time, because we’ve done came a long way. There was a lot of people that doubted us and they didn’t think we could make it this far. But I’m proud of us and I think we can go further and further. It’s just one game at a time,” noted senior point guard Whitney McClure.
And while it hasn’t always been easy, the Red Devilettes have battled through the trying times to experience happier days on the hardwood.
“We started from the bottom and now we’re here. [Wednesday night] was just something else,” senior guard Lyric Maze said. “Now this is going to be something different than we’ve ever been through.”
“It was a great feeling. Really, the best feeling I’ve ever had,” added senior forward Sydney Boddie, who stepped up with a 12-point effort on Wednesday. “Nobody thought we would make it this far, and I just can’t explain the feeling.”
And with the majority of the basketball team also playing key roles on the Bowdon softball team that didn’t have the finish it desired this past fall, the surprising success it is experiencing now has proven to be the silver lining to their senior year.
“Well, I want to thank the Lord for bringing us this far. It feels good because in softball we were supposed to make it further than we did, but I think it happened for a reason. Like coach said the other day, there’s a reason we’re all together again and I hope that we can just keep winning and winning,” said senior guard Trinity Strickland, who was an all-state performer for the Bowdon softball team.
Red Devilette senior forward Jena Lane said Wednesday’s dramatic victory is something the entire team will always remember, regardless of what happens the rest of the way.
“It was really a cool experience as a team — both for the ones on the court and the ones on the bench,” Lane said. “It was fun for us to cheer on those that were playing. It was probably a once-in-a-lifetime feeling.
“It’s hard to think about we only won two games just three years ago. I don’t think any of us freshman year could have seen this coming. It is a very big accomplishment for us and we have come together as a team to accomplish going from two wins to the sweet 16.”
Of course, the playoff path gets tougher the deeper you get, and that certainly holds true with tonight’s opponent in the top-seeded and fourth-ranked Lady Yellow Jackets (25-1).
Calhoun, which beat No. 4 Westminster, 65-31, in its opening-round victory, is in the state playoffs for the sixth straight season and is making its third consecutive appearance in the round of 16.
But the way first-year Bowdon coach Remonica Stephens sees it, that’s an advantage for her squad.
“They’ve got that experience and I think now the pressure is more on Calhoun because of the history of that basketball program. That’s what I keep telling the girls, ‘Just keep on slipping right on by people and don’t make them think about you,’” Remonica Stephens said.
“Everybody’s heard of Calhoun, knows of Calhoun. For us, it’s just sweet 16. You know, the first time in several years and for these seniors, never. So we’re excited.”
The Lady Jackets feature a pair of 6-0 sisters in the post in junior Molly Palmer and senior Taylor Palmer, along with a handful of solid guards that can rotate in and out.
But the Red Devilettes are now playing with house money, and Remonica Stephens is confident that anything is possible at this point.
“It’s like we told them, ‘You already went in and upset a two seed and now we’ve got a one seed. Nobody expects anything of you.’ You know, people have been asking, ‘Where is Bowdon?’ So that’s an advantage for us right now,” Remonica Stephens said. “That’s our advantage, being the unknown element in this tournament.”