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SW DeKalb Lady Panthers seek funds for national tournament trip

Ken Watts | 12/6/2013, 6:40 p.m.
The Southwest DeKalb High Lady Panthers, shown here March 14 after winning the 2013 Class AAAAA state championship, are trying to raise funds for a trip to a prestigious national tournament. Photo by Ken Watts

— Southwest DeKalb High School’s Class AAAAA state champion Lady Panthers basketball team is scrambling to raise $4,000 in less than two weeks to pay for a trip to the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, Ariz., on Dec. 19-21. Tournament officials invited the team in April.

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Kathleen Richey-Walton

Coach Kathleen Richey-Walton said the invitation is an important signal that the Lady Panthers are rising to national prominence. She calls it a tremendous compliment to the Southwest DeKalb girls basketball program.

“We’re ranked 23rd out of all high school teams in the U.S. and we’ll be playing other nationally ranked teams at the tournament,” Richey-Walton said Friday. “I’ve been trying to get us into the Nike competition ever since I started here in 2002.”

Richey-Walton’s teams have been attracting a lot of attention, going to the Georgia state high school finals five out of the last six years and winning four championships in that period. SWD joins Collins Hill and Columbia among elite metro Atlanta high school teams to score invitations to the Nike Tournament.

Richey-Walton said the team has raised $10,000 to cover its airfare to Phoenix by organizing a Southwest DeKalb fall league from Sept. 8 to Oct. 26. “Ten teams paid fees to participate,” Richey-Walton said.

SWD is also using proceeds from its Breakfast of Champions benefit on Oct. 12 and collected donations at their preseason game against Columbia on Nov. 14.

But the team is $4,000 short of what they need to cover hotel rooms for the 20 players plus coaching staff who will make the trip. So they’re putting out the urgent call for donations.

“This would be a nice reward, especially for our senior players who’ve worked so hard to make the team successful during their time here,” said Richey-Walton, who has become a legendary coach in Georgia and around the nation. She coached for 20 years at the college level before accepting a coaching/teaching job at McNair Middle school in 2000. Since Richey-Walton’s arrival at Southwest DeKalb in 2002, the school has posted a 224-70 record and her ex-players are on teams at major colleges including the Universities of Florida and Oregon, Clark Atlanta University, Florida A&M and many more.

Anyone wishing to make a donation can contact Southwest DeKalb’s game announcer Greg White at (404) 702-4117 or gregwhite@comcast.net.

Richey-Walton said the team has a self-imposed fundraising deadline of Dec. 15th to allow time to make final arrangements for the trip.