USA Women’s Basketball Team Has Trip To Remember In Atlanta
The South Alabama women’s basketball team had a trip to remember and will have a story to tell for the rest of their lives.
The Lady Jaguars left out Tuesday morning en route to Atlanta ahead of their game against Georgia State on Wednesday. However the routine trip ended up taking them 24 hours.
They left campus at 9:30am on Tuesday just as the winter storm was starting to hit the southeast. But they did not arrive at their Atlanta hotel until 9:30am on Wednesday after spending the night on the bus and walking the final mile or so on foot.
The team started to encounter snow when they reached Greenville, Alabama and it continued as they made their way to Montgomery. They had planned to stop in Montgomery for lunch, but as they looked for restaurants they found that most of the places were closed. However they found a Chick-fil-A that was just about to close and they agreed to allow the team to eat inside.
As they passed the Georgia line they started to see flurries then when thy got to Peachtree, which is about 40 miles from Atlanta, they started to see snow on the roads. At this time traffic was still moving.
It wasn’t until they got downtown did the traffic start to congest. When they were looking for Georgia 400 exit is when the traffic halted.
Head coach Terry Fowler told AL.com, “There are signs everywhere (warning of icy conditions) and because it’s an overpass, (Georgia 400) is iced up pretty bad. We see all these trucks and such, but none are going over Georgia 400. No trucks, no buses are trying, only cars and that’s sporadically. So we’re not going to get on Georgia 400, we’re going to take the next exit down and circle back to the hotel. But by now it’s just total gridlock. It is just stopped.
“The thing that was crazy was, we are in the far right lane and the road has a slight embankment from right to left. We start sliding and we slide six lanes, all the way across to the far left lane. We don’t touch anybody. All those cars. We get going a little bit, but now we’re going up an embankment. Now it’s about 8 o’clock at night and we still can’t go because we’re still on an overpass and we’re just kind of stuck.
“Now the road is slanted from left to right. At about 9:30 at night, this ambulance comes. People are trying to let it through and it literally slides and stops an inch from our bus. They’re on a call. They cut their lights off. They can’t go anywhere. They can’t back up or turn around, they can’t go anywhere. You see them get on the radio and they just sit there for a while. We were able to move up a little later and they were able to get going.”
The teams bus driver, Millie Hawkins, worked for Greyhound for several years and is from Cleveland, Ohio. Fowler told AL.com, “Her experience came into play. She was calm, cool and collected the entire time. She was unbelievable.”
Hours passed and the bus was only able to move feet. Everyone accepted that the team was going to be stuck on the bus for the night and everyone got as comfortable as possible and tried to get some sleep.
A good samaritan came by the bus around 2am and only identified himself as Jason. He told them about the traffic on Georgia 400 and how buses like theirs are all slammed against the guardrails. He asked them if they had anything to eat, when they said no he went back to his car and gave them peanut butter crackers, chips and other snacks without accepting any money. He even said that he would be back later on Wednesday and if they were still there he would have some more food for them.
By morning Atlanta 511 reponse team starts to come around and help and eventually gets the bus going again but they eventually get to another location where only two lanes were passable and cars are stalled or just spinning and cannot get up a hill.
Eventually coach Fowler decided that they are close enough to the hotel that he and other team officials decide to walk to the hotel to test the route before getting the rest of the players off of the bus. It takes them about 25 minutes and the walk was not bad, so they returned to the bus and informed the team and they all walk to the hotel as well.
The bus driver was able to get to the hotel about two hours later.
As soon as the team got to the hotel they went straight to the dining area for breakfast.
The team slept most of the afternoon before their 3pm study hall and dinner afterwards. They will tipoff at 3:30pm CST on Thursday and return home afterwords
The men’s basketball team never left Mobile and has rescheduled their game to Monday at 6pm.
USA Athletics Director Joel Erdmann stayed in touch with the team via phone throughout the whole ordeal. Erdmann was in contact with GSU the whole time and had a fall-back plan with them to provide help to USA team if required.
Hopefully their trip will be more uneventful on the way home. They will face Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday at the Mitchell Center.
Read about their entire trip on AL.com here.