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December 19, 2013

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Red-hot Lady Broncos on par with last year’s state squad

HOLLY POND — The similarities between this season’s Holly Pond varsity girls and the team that waltzed to the Class 3A state title game back in March are almost eerily identical.

A year ago today, the 2012 squad was ranked No. 6 in the state basketball poll and sported a tidy 12-2 record. Both its losses came to above-average opponents — a 41-38 decision to 2A Cold Springs and a 59-55 thriller to 5A Priceville.

On Tuesday night, this year’s Broncos moved to 12-2 with a resounding victory over Vinemont. They entered today ranked fourth and with losses to terrific competition in No. 1 Oneonta — last year’s 4A state champion — and 6A Austin.

If Holly Pond keeps going down this spooky path, it could find itself back in familiar territory come January and February when the Green and White secured county, area and regional titles a season ago before clinching the school’s first-ever state berth.

According to head coach Scott Adams, his team is well on its way to doing just that.

“I like where we are,” he said. “At this time of the year, you hope that you're getting better every game. Even though I see a lot to improve on, I think we are doing that. I believe the girls are well together right now.

“We've also played some tough competition and that's made us better. I’m just looking forward to what might can happen the rest of the year.”

Coming into the year, Adams was tabbed with the unenviable task of replacing his leading scorer, rebounder and leader from a year ago in Taylor Terry. The departing senior was the heart and soul of last season’s Cinderella squad and grabbed myriad accolades on her way to signing with Snead State.

Fortunately for Adams, he also had four returning starters — including seniors Natasha Holcombe, Rachel Finley and Taylor Rowell, as well as junior Meg Gambrill— to help settle his stomach as he prepared to begin his 2013 campaign.

Although the loss of Terry left the Broncos without a true post player, they’ve done a marvelous job thus far of utilizing the athletes they do have for what they like to accomplish on either side of the floor.

“We’ve had to rely a lot on our quickness, our ball movement and our ability to get shots in transition,” Adams said. “We’ve been attacking the lane off the dribble more this year. Rachel and Natasha have actually done a really solid job for us in the post despite that not being their natural position.”

Whatever Adams and Co. have cooked up so far this season has obviously been the right recipe, as nine of the Broncos’ 12 wins have come by double digits and the rest of their victories by at least seven points.

Even their losses — four and 10 points, respectively — have been close games well into the fourth quarter.

Don’t take that to mean this team is about to start coasting.

“We are in a good spot, but we are trying to be a lot better,” Rowell said. “We want to go back to where we were last year, but we want to go one step farther and win that title.”

Added Holcombe: “We aren’t at our full potential yet, but that’s what we are going to be working on. It’s a big goal to return to Birmingham. We can be better than last year’s team.”

It certainly appears that — as of now — they aren’t going to be any worse.

With Gambrill playing at a high level and the rest of the team following suit, there seems to be no end in sight for just how good this year’s rendition of the Green and White can be.

“We need to keep our nose to the grindstone,” Adams said. “We have a chance to get better every day. You don't want to go backwards, and you really don't want to look too far ahead. We want to be playing our best basketball at the end.

“I'd like us to be shooting the ball a little better than we are now, but I can't complain about our hustle, our defense or our effort. It's all there. I think we can be better because we can shoot better. We've got to be scrappy. If we do all that and get a little bit better from the 3-point line, I think we'll be fine. We are going to find out before too long how good we can be.”

% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at jwinfrey@cullmantimes.com.

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