Corbett helps Lady Gators top Clarke Prep to win State Title
By Wil Crews
Looking back to the beginning of the season, Glenwood Varsity Girls Basketball coach Dusty Purdue knew his team had the makeup of champions.
“I thought we did have a shot [at winning a championship],” Purdue said. “I had a veteran team coming back. We returned four starters — really four starters and the bench person from last year. I’m not going to lie, sometimes as a coach you get out of the way. I was dealt a really good hand.”
Purdue’s intuition rang true on Feb. 17 when the Lady Gators won the AISA Class AAA State Championship at the Multiplex at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, beating Clarke Prep Academy 40-27.
The two teams had met before in what was Glenwood’s first game of the season. The Gators cruised to an easy win that day, their experience far outweighing that of Clarke Prep. However, Purdue had a feeling that Glenwood would be seeing them again.
“I heard from the beginning, through the grapevine, that Clarke Prep had moved up to 3A and that they had a good young team and would be one of the teams that could possibly be at the end,” Purdue said. “It’s so funny and ironic that we opened the season with them and finished it with them. They have a good young team; I just have an older veteran team.”
Fast forward and the veteran Lady Gators entered Wednesday’s game with a 22-1 record, seeking to redeem the championship game losses of 2020 and 2018. They exited 23-1, amidst the celebration of the program’s eighth state title, holding their first state championship trophy since 2017.
The game itself was a dicey affair. Arguably the Gator’s best playmaker and ball handler, Jasmyn Burts, was afflicted by foul trouble. Mya Brooks, the Gator’s most dominant post presence, was limited with an ankle injury. Both teams were struggling to score consistently. Enter Payton Corbett.
“Payton has been in our program for four years,” said Purdue. “She came right in and played right away. When Jasmyn got in foul trouble, she wasn’t going to let us lose.”
Corbett finished with a game-high 17 points, highlighted by six straight points to begin the third quarter, which broke an 18-18 deadlock.
“The thing with her is she’s probably our best defender and one of our quickest girls,” Purdue said of Corbett. “I don’t remember a lot of games that she has scored double figures over the year, but she scored 14 points in the first game of the year against Clarke Prep. And then on Wednesday she came to the bench and said, ‘We are not losing today no matter what’s going on.’”
Of course, Corbett didn’t do it all alone. The Gators’ collective defense held Clarke Prep to just nine second-half points.
“We missed a lot of shots, but defensively we played really well,” Purdue said.
Burts also returned from her foul trouble to put her stamp on the game in the fourth, finishing with 12 points. Brooks, although limited with her injury, finished with 9. And, despite not leading on the stat sheet, Macy Fanning was leading with her voice.
“Macy is the leader of our team,” Purdue said. “This program — she’s been in it for six years — it means a lot to her. She was the glue that held everything together.”
When the fourth quarter began, Glenwood held a narrow four-point lead. Burts scored on three straight possessions to open the period, and Corbett added eight more points to help the Gators pull away and secure the win.
“To me she was the difference in the ball game,” Purdue said in continued praise of Corbett. “She willed us to a win; she handled the ball when she wasn’t supposed to. She meant a lot to our team all year, but when the going got tough, she really stepped up and showed what she was all about.”