There’s a saying that still rings loudly at Savannah Country Day — tradition never graduates.
“We build it in what we do,” said Hornets girls basketball coach Bobbi Mock.
On an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon in November, a little tradition returned to campus, preceding SCD’s girls and boys basketball games against Wheeler County.
Former head coach Dale Parker and members from the Hornets’ 1999-2000 team reunited for a cookout at the school, sharing hugs and memories from their first and only GHSA Class A state basketball championship.
Twenty seasons ago, on March 3, 2000, SCD held off Turner County 53-46 in the title game.
“It was a season none of us have forgotten,” said Parker, who retired from coaching in 2015 and handed the reins to Mock, her assistant for nearly 20 years.
“To win a state championship, it takes a lot of skill, but it takes a lot of luck, too,” Parker said. “It takes everything coming together at the same time.”
The season could have unraveled from the start. The Hornets’ top player, Danielle Hernandez, suffered a torn knee ligament in the first quarter of the first game and was lost for the season.
But SCD had no shortage of players ready to step up and lead. Center Jordie Soso became the focal point of the half-court offense and guards Erin Shields and Tamar Gal controlled the tempo along with Sarah Sipple and Elizabeth Mobley.
Soso, an Australian exchange student, went on to play at the University of Memphis. Shields played at Connecticut College.
“I just remember how much fun we had, just the camaraderie,” said Shields, a marine biologist who now lives in Williamsburg, Va. “We just had a blast. We worked hard and played hard, and it created some great memories.”
Shields and her teammates faced some tough times, too. A year earlier, the Hornets, the region champions and top seed, lost to a No. 4 seed in the first round of the state tournament.
“It was a bit of a wake-up call,” Shields said. “We knew the agony of that defeat.”
An experienced group didn’t let it happen again. Parker and Mock said a memorable win came against hard-nosed Dooly County during the second round of the state tournament.
SCD beat Paideia in the semifinals before knocking off Turner County and finishing the season with a 29-4 record.
On the same day, Beach High School won a Class 4A girls basketball championship as well, knocking off previously undefeated Baldwin 69-65.
“It was an exciting time for Savannah basketball,” Parker said. “Savannah kind of took over the Macon Coliseum and we came back with two state championships.”
Parker took three more Hornet teams to the state Final Four, but none combined the skill and timely luck of the 1999-2000 team.
“We always say tradition never graduates,” Mock said. “Even though we may have kids who graduate and scored 1,000 points, the tradition we have with the basketball program remains. We have kids who would run through a wall, because they believe in what we do.
“I think a lot of today’s kids are so consumed with themselves, but we try to build on what came before and what’s going to come after. It’s not just now and in this moment. We like winning games and competing every day, but having these kids come back and the friendships they develop, that’s what it’s all about.”
Parker said for years the coaches and players from the 1999-2000 team held an oyster roast and would watch a replay of the Turner County championship game.
“We’ve won every time,” Parker said.