ST. PETERSBURG — Dixie Hollins is one game from making history.
If the Rebels, undefeated in Class 6A, District 10 and the top seed in next week's tournament, can get past the Largo-Springstead winner Jan. 29, they will advance to the region tournament for the first time. Consider: The school opened in 1959, before most of the current team's parents were born.
There has never been much buzz about the girls basketball team, but the 2013-14 Rebels have changed all that.
"Finally," senior guard Meagan Thomas said. "I don't think girls basketball gets as much attention as it should. It's nice for us to be on the intercom in the mornings."
The reason for the historic season is thanks in no small part to Thomas, a scoring machine since she joined the team as a freshman. She averaged 21.4 points per game her first season and steadily has raised that number to 25.5. Dixie Hollins as a team averages 50, so her impact is evident.
"The first day I watched her play I remember thinking, 'Oh my, this kid has so much potential,' " fifth-year coach Kelley Jones said. "She was more offensive-minded her freshman year. But as she got older and more mature her defensive game stepped up. She's not afraid to take on a team's top player and shut them down."
In Thomas' first three seasons, the Rebels struggled to win. They weren't even close to competing for a district championship. But instead of transferring to a school with more success, Thomas stuck with her teammates.
"I've always liked playing here," Thomas said. "Even in my freshman year when we were losing a lot. I'm not one to give up. I always saw potential in this team. There was no reason for me to leave."
Thomas has proved right. The Rebels are 16-5 heading into the district tournament. Thomas, who has interest from schools such as Daytona State, Charleston Southern, Prairie View A&M and St. Petersburg College, is clearly the main reason. But others have contributed.
Senior Haley Martz gets nearly seven points and five rebounds per game. Junior Christine Walling averages nearly six points and five rebounds. And junior Kinza Khan averages nine points.
"We've been playing together for a while, and we've gotten better and better," Khan said. "We're like a family now."
There has never been a bigger window of opportunity for Dixie Hollins to end its playoff drought. The Rebels are healthy and on a seven-game winning streak. And they are sick of playing in a gym with no girls basketball banners.
"We always talk about a banner," Khan said. "But this year it looks like a reality. It's really going to happen."