The most obvious sign of change for South Forsyth girls basketball this season was in the middle of a circle of players at practice Monday. There sat Emily Dreslinski and another teammate leading the team through stretches, a reminder that the most successful era of Lady War Eagles basketball is over.
South’s ascent in Georgia hoops the past four years coincided with the arrival of Sarah Myers and KK Storms in the 2012-13 season. They were skilled guards, the daughters of coaches, who played with confidence that belied their age from the start. By the end of their high school careers, South had won a school-record 92 games, a region championship (2015) and made an appearance in the semifinals of the state tournament (2014), just the second ever by a girls basketball team from Forsyth County in the Georgia High School Association. Myers and Storms are now freshmen at the University of Maryland and Georgia College, respectively.
Dreslinski is a senior now, along with Mari Jonassen and Olivia Poff, and they’ve been left with the “blessing and curse” of following Myers and Storms, as Storms’ father, Rodney, puts it.
Blessed, because for the past three seasons they were able to develop and grow while opposing teams put their best defenders on Myers and Storms.
Cursed, because now those defenders will be coming for Dreslinski.
“It’s definitely going to change,” Dreslinski said. “People are going to have to step up now that we lost two key players. We’re going to have to rely on some of our younger girls, mostly freshmen. That’s a big change for them coming from middle school and jumping into varsity and getting minutes their first game.”
Dreslinski remembers her transition well. She came to South from Piney Grove Middle School, and she was immediately swept up in the atmosphere and expectations Myers and Storms helped forge.
“I definitely had to step up,” Dreslinski said, “and they did a really good job at welcoming us freshmen because they needed us.”
Dreslinski played sparingly that season, averaging just 1.8 points in a little over six minutes a game. South, meanwhile, reached the Region 6-6A tournament championship, then stunned the area with a run to the state semifinals through a succession of wins against Gwinnett County teams.
Dreslinski finally found her role with the Lady War Eagles the following postseason. In a rematch of the Region 6-6A tournament championship against rival North Forsyth, Dreslinski had 11 points, including nine the second half, to help South get revenge and the region title. A week later, in a rematch of the state semifinals against nationally-ranked McEachern, Dreslinski had a team-high 16 points in a tight loss on assertive drives right at some of the best players in the country.
“I just remember that first drive I took and got that layup, and the crowd and everything and my teammates cheering me on,” Dreslinski said. “I think they gave me an energy boost. I think that’s what set the tone for the rest of the game.”
It set the tone for Dreslinski filling a bigger role last season, when she averaged 8.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and shot 51 percent to be selected second team All-County by the Forsyth County News. She signed an athletic scholarship last week with Emmanuel College, a Division II program in Franklin Springs, Georgia.
But Dreslinski and her fellow seniors will be in total control of setting the tone this season. Myers and Storms shaped South’s leadership with equal parts acumen and assertion, and Dreslinski sees Jonassen and Poff leading like that, too.
That’s not Dreslinski’s style.
“The leader I hope to become is someone everybody else looks up to and someone who someone else would want to take my role,” Dreslinski said. “I’m more of a lead-by-example type.”
The goals that became so engrained during Myers and Storms’ tenure remain: to reach the state playoffs, to win a region championship.
There is also an extra one. One more win than last season, and Dreslinski and her fellow seniors will have won 93 games during their high school careers – one more than Myers and Storms.
“It’s going to be different,” Dreslinski said, “but we only lost two of the eight people we had [last season], so I still think we’re going to be a strong team, and I think we have great chemistry on and off the court. I think that’s a great advantage for us.”