COLUMBIA — After defending their 3A Upper-State Championship Saturday against Seneca, the Newberry High School Lady Bulldogs are headed to the Colonial Life Arena for a second time. They are vying for the State Championship win against the Ridgeland/Hardeeville High School Lady Jaguars.
The Bulldogs are going into Saturday’s game with their eyes on the prize, but are also playing for fellow teammate, senior Rayanna Davis. Davis sustained injuries in a car accident last week.
Coach Melissa Mendenhall gave an update on Davis, who, as of Monday, still remains in the hospital.
“Rayanna is getting better every day, she is still in the hospital, we don’t know how long she will be there. It’s been pretty emotional, up and down. We talked as coaches and said that the girls have been stronger than us and they have really rallied together to help get us through this,” she said.
“We are going to play for Ray so we are going to get this win for Ray and that’s all I really have to say,” said senior forward Kelsey Felks.
Going off of what Felks said, junior shooting guard Zacharia Epps added that she knows Davis would want the team to go out and play hard.
Mendenhall also spoke on the amount of support that has been shown to Davis as she recovers, including the sportsmanship displayed last weekend by the Lady Bobcats of Seneca High School who signed and presented Diamond Davis, Rayanna’s sister, with a number 15 Seneca jersey for Rayanna.
“Once everyone started finding out because of social media a lot of coaches, especially in 3A started reaching out to me sending well wishes. Well Coach Towe didn’t really know, he just sent me an email titled ‘Rumors’ and I explained to him what happened,” Mendenhall said. “He called and said his girls wanted to do a gesture in honor of Rayanna and before the game he came over and asked if they could present a jersey to Diamond.”
This weekend, as the Lady Bulldogs take the court for the state championship title, they will continue to honor Davis, bringing along her number 15 jersey, a poster board made for Davis and lots of Facetime.
After falling short for the championship last year, Mendenhall and her team have rallied together with the goal of redeeming themselves Saturday.
“You think about what you could have done different, what you could have done better, but we just had to learn from the mistakes that we made,” Mendenhall said. “In the past, we have had an uptempo-type team, we don’t want to change that, we want to keep doing what we’ve always done.”
With the championship on the line, Felks and Epps know what their roles will be on Saturday.
“Last week I knew I had to play hard for Rayanna who we lost in a car accident so I still had to work offense and on defense I had to play hard to help set the tempo,” said Epps.
Felks said that her role during the game will be to help keep the team encouraged, rebounding and recording more points on the offensive side.
“We think back to last year every day in practice. It just makes you want to go harder and just to get back to that moment,” she said.
The Lady Bulldogs and Lady Jaguars will face off at the Colonial Life Arena this Saturday with tipoff scheduled for 2 p.m.
Reach Kelly Duncan at 803-768-3123 ext. 1868 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.