STATHAM—Malcom Bridge Middle School girls basketball team head coach Todd Wells snagged the trashcan from outside the Lady Lightning locker room on Friday night.
To the chorus of ‘shave the beard’ Wells clicked on his portable clippers and removed all of the facial the last few weeks had accumulated along the frame plate of his face and the mustache that had grown thick since his last shave underneath his nose.
‘Who is that?’ joked the gathered collection of cheery middle school basketball players. The public shaving of their head coach came at the expense of a winning the Northeast Georgia Athletic League championship 35-19 over West Jackson Middle School.
Wells is a firm believer in doing what it takes to breed motivation. Though when he made the bet with his team to shave his beard should the Lady Lightning win the league championship Wells had no idea how big of a deal it was to his players, he was pleasantly surprised that not only had the Lady Lightning remembered the bet, but were chomping at the bit for him to pay up on Friday night following the trophy ceremony.
“I almost felt like they were more excited about the bet because they were chanting ‘shave the beard’ and so I think they might have been just as excited about that as they were about winning,” Well said. “Anything you can do to motivate young people, I’m willing to do those types of things. It was all a good experience. I needed to shave anyway.”
Wells and the Lady Lightning got a little bit of a surprise in the team that was waiting on them on Friday night. For most of the season, Wells admits he had been comparing his team to Bear Creek Middle School, the only team to beat the Lady Lightning this season.
The Lady Lightning had been preparing to face BCMS and building toward a third battle with them in the Statham. WJMS beat BCMS in the semifinals and left Wells a little anxious the night prior to the game.
“They (WJMS) were a good team and a lot of people were surprised that they beat Bear Creek, who was supposed to be the best team before the season,” Well said. “I think from top to bottom, they were a better team than Bear Creek. They had more players and it really made me nervous. We beat Bear Creek just a week ago and I was kind of prepared for them. I was not prepared for West Jackson. That made me really nervous and I didn’t sleep a whole lot the couple of days prior to it because it was certainly a different type of threat to us.”
The Lady Lightning struggled a bit in the first quarter. Two late scores gave them a slim, 7-5 lead after the first 6 minutes. Wells felt the Lady Lightning’s nervousness early. The gym was chalked full of MBMS supporters, which is normal. Friday’s atmosphere exceeded that of a regular game for the Lady Lightning.
“We had the best student section of anybody in our league,” Wells said. “To be honest, our girls are used to a big student section, but they aren’t used to the pressure of a championship game. You could tell they were nervous in the first quarter. It took a little bit of settling in, but once they did and Kendall Wells hit that three-pointer at the buzzer, that kind of jump started everything.”