Susan Thompson has coached girls basketball at Greenwood High School for 14 years. During her tenure, Thompson has put some outstanding teams on the floor, but has never received an invitation to Myrtle Beach’s Beach Ball Classic, a tournament which showcases the best teams across the southeast. Until this year.
Thompson’s squad finished 2012 with a record of 22-2 and made a deep run into the playoffs. Their season ended with a controversial game at Dorman High School in Spartanburg, but they caught the attention of one of the top tournaments in the southeast – The annual Beach Ball Classic.
The 2013 Beach Ball Classic will feature some of the top teams in the southeast and a team from Canada and will be played Dec. 17-21 in Myrtle Beach. When Thompson received the invitation to play in the 16-team tournament, she knew she and the rest of the Lady Eagles would have to step up off the court if they wanted to make the trip to Myrtle Beach. Thompson put together a plan and presented it to athletic director Gene Cathcart.
“(Cathcart) goes to Myrtle Beach on Christmas break and goes to the games during the (Beach Ball Classic),” Thompson said. “When I took the invitation to him he said we needed to do whatever it took to get down there.”
Thompson’s first step was to have her players sign a contract stipulating that they would maintain a “C” average in their classes and have no unexcused absences prior to the tournament. She then went to work planning extra fundraisers for the team to raise the money to make the trip to the beach. The extra work, Thompson said, will be well worth the effort.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these girls,” Thompson said. “They will be around college athletes and get to see what it takes to play at that level.”
Junior guard Tianna Swearinger agrees with Thompson.
“It’s a very big honor,” Swearinger said of playing in the Beach Ball Classic. “It’s a big honor especially for Greenwood to be able to get their talent recognized and play against teams from other states and another country.”
Playing against top competition is something Thompson and senior guard Christina Westervelt hope will make their team better.
“The opportunity to play against the higher level of competition is an honor,” Westervelt said. “We hope to get better by playing some of those teams.”
Thompson’s players talk a lot about opportunity and getting better, something they understand well. They also understand that when the pressure is on they have to step up their game. Thompson was not a big fan of starting freshman players on her basketball teams because the pressure of moving from middle school basketball to 4A high school basketball can be daunting. Swearinger talked Thompson into letting her start as a freshman, which paved the way for another standout freshman, Tembre Moates, to make her mark in 2012. Moates plays in the post for Thompson and shows wisdom beyond her years, particularly in recognizing the opportunity she and her teammates have in front of them.
“It’s a blessing, really,” Moates said. “Going there and showing other states how we really play basketball in Greenwood is a huge blessing and opportunity for us.”
The team is currently selling Pizza Inn discount cards for $10. The cards provide a number of discounts at Pizza Inn, but, more importantly, help the team get to Myrtle Beach. Cards can be purchased from the players or by contacting Coach Thompson at the number below. On Oct. 15, the Chick-Fil-A Drive Thru will host Lady Eagles night and donate a portion of the money spent between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. to the Lady Eagles. You must note that you are supporting Lady Eagles basketball when ordering for the team to receive the benefit. Any donations are also welcome.
“We don’t want anyone to give it to us,” Thompson said. “We want to earn our way. We are very blessed and fortunate to have the support of the Greenwood community. They have always been very supportive of Lady Eagles basketball.”
For more information on Lady Eagles basketball, to purchase Pizza Inn discount cards or to make a donation contact Coach Susan Thompson at 864-941-5637.