It’s been a long three years for Hannah Campbell.
In 2018, her New Site team lost to Ingomar 46-19 in the Class 2A state championship game. It was the Lady Royals’ fifth trip to a state final, and they had just one gold ball to show for it, in 2012.
Campbell scored two points in that game.
“We’ve been trying to get our way back ever since then,” Campbell said.
New Site got back there Friday and seized the moment, beating defending champ Calhoun City 55-50. Campbell had a game-high 19 points, which is no surprise, given that she’s been New Site’s top scorer the past two years.
“I still can’t stop crying,” she said shortly after the trophy ceremony. “It’s one of the best feelings in the world, it really is. I can’t really explain how good it feels.”
It’s an emotion that’s difficult to articulate, especially for someone from a school and a county where basketball has long been king. New Site’s boys own seven titles, and although the last one came in 1969, they usually field a very competitive team.
This year’s boys team sat on the front row on Friday to cheer on the Lady Royals.
“It’s a blessing to be part of a community that supports basketball like they do. It’s a great feeling,” said Byron Sparks, who’s in his 19th year as head coach.
Senior Ivy Loden, the Lady Royals’ sparkplug point guard, understands the community’s depth of love for basketball as well as anyone.
“This is something that we’ve been dreaming of since we were little,” she said. “Jackson trips when I was little were everything to me. Everything.”
While Campbell was the only current New Site player to see the floor in that 2018 loss to Ingomar, the whole senior class felt the sting of that day. Starters Emma Johnson and Saydee Taylor might not put up the kind of numbers that Campbell or junior forward Lily Whitley do, but they were indispensable.
Sparks said that during timeouts Friday, he didn’t have to give any pep talks. The girls took care of that themselves. They also got each other ready for the big game and never appeared overwhelmed by the moment.
“We knew we didn’t want to feel the way we felt freshman year again when we lost,” Campbell said. “We did not want that feeling again, so we were just playing our hearts out, and we were doing everything we could to make it happen for our team.”
Brad Locke is senior sports writer for the Daily Journal. Contact him on Twitter @bradlocke or via email at [email protected]
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