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Tim Stevens, J. Mike Blake, Clay Best, Aaron Moody, and Elliott Warnock follow all the news for high school athletes from Wake, Orange, Durham, Chatham and Johnston Counties. 

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Spartans have used school bus as their secret weapon

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In today’s N&O, we featured a story on Sanderson’s girls’ basketball team advancing to tonight’s NCHSAA 4A Eastern Regional semifinal game without its head coach, Marcus Davis. Since February, the Spartans have won seven of its last eight games with assistant coaches Raymond Hammond (pictured left), Michelle Conti and Glenn Frazier (center).

Here's one note on the Spartans that didn’t appear in the paper:

By Nate Taylor – ntaylor@newsobserver.com

During Sanderson’s playoff run, the team hasn’t run away from using superstition as part of its success. In fact, the Spartans have been adamant about keeping their new superstition going.

Assistant coach Raymond Hammond said it all started with the bus the team has used during the postseason.

“All coaches have superstitions,” Hammond said. “Every time we’ve got on the bus we’ve been successful.”

The Spartans described their bus as the ugliest one the school has. That’s because it is more than 20 years old, making it the oldest one at Sanderson. And yes, it takes a few times for the engine to get started.

“It’s really old,” said Dashawna Smith, a senior guard who laughed at the situation.

The Spartans (20-8) stared using the bus two weeks ago for the Cap Eight conference tournament because it was large enough to transport both the varsity team and JV players who wanted to attend the postseason games.

Sanderson is 4-1 since using the bus. The only loss was to Millbrook, the team the Spartans will play tonight at the Crown Arena in Fayetteville.

The Spartans will use the old bus to make the 144-mile round trip to and from the arena – in hopes of a different outcome against the Wildcats (28-2).

The team left school early today to go to the Airborne &amp; Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville. Hammond hopes the field trip will help the Spartans relax since none of the players have performed on this big of a stage.

Now, the Spartans believe all they have to do is continue their superstition from the museum to the arena.

“We have nothing to lose,” Smith said.

There’s also a seating chart for the bus trips. Assistant coach Glenn Frazier is the driver. Hammond sits in the front row, with Smith and forward Bria Gibson across the aisle. Guard Jessica Fife sits in the middle of the bus, and guard Derricka Lewis is in the backseat.

So when did this superstition become serious? Hammond said it happened in Sanderson’s second-round home playoff game against J.H. Rose.

A few hours before the game, Hammond wanted to talk to Tony Lewis, the school’s athletic director.

“We need the bus this afternoon,” Hammond said to Lewis.

What?” Lewis responded. “Tonight’s game is at home.”

“We need to take this and drive it around the block a few times.”

“Uh … OK.”

The final score against Rose told the Spartans they were on to something:

Sanderson 70, Rose 41.

Nate Taylor: 919-829-4538 or follow at @ByNateTaylor

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About the blogger

Nate Taylor joins the News & Observer as a sports reporter and sports editor for the North Raleigh News and the Midtown Raleigh News. He has written for the Boston Globe, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and his hometown newspaper, the Kansas City Star. He graduated from the University of Central Missouri in 2010. He can be reached at 829-4538 or at nate.taylor@newsobserver.com.