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March 30, 2014

THE TIMES’ 2014 ALL-AREA GIRLS BASKETBALL TEAM: Holly Pond’s Gambrill named Player of Year, Adams grabs top coaching accolade

CULLMAN — Those who watched Holly Pond’s girls basketball team this past season saw, without question, one of the smartest, most balanced groups in recent Cullman County history.

Heck, even Scott Adams admitted he didn’t have to do too much coaching because of his players’ intelligence on and off the court.

Don’t believe so? Just ask any of the 18 squads that tried and failed miserably to upstage the Broncos from November through February. Most had to simply pick their poison for a lopsided loss.

Seniors Rachel Finley and Natasha Holcombe were each quite capable of big double-doubles on any given night. Defend them closely, though, and risk leaving shooters like Kaitlyn Stephens, Taylor Rowell, Abby Gambrill and Melissa Clingman wide open in space for dagger 3-point shots.

There was one Green and White girl, however, who provided a little bit of everything for her team during their 32-4 campaign.

Meg Gambrill ran point for a very efficient Holly Pond team all season long, pacing her squad in scoring (15.1 points a game), assists (4.3) and steals (4.3). She also led her teammates in a host of statistical categories, including free-throw percentage, 3-point percentage and all-important hustle points.

She helped the Broncos secure titles at the Yule Tide Classic and the Cullman County Basketball Tournament — the second in as many years — as well as a sixth straight area tournament championship and a Northeast Regional Tourney crown after a pair of dominant victories versus Saks — Gambrill scored 26 in that win — and Plainview. The Green and White then made the trek to Birmingham for the Final 48 Tournament, hammering a Trinity squad before falling to No. 1 Lauderdale County.

For all those reasons — and many more — Gambrill has been selected as this year’s All-Area Player of the Year. She’s accompanied on the honorary squad by Adams, the two-time Coach of the Year.

“Meg is a product of great talent and hard work,” Adams said of his star junior. “She plays a lot of basketball and is driven to be the best she can be. When she isn’t playing for us, she is at AAU or doing lots of individual work in the gym.

With three state tournament appearances over the past four years, it goes without saying Adams has coached his fair share of quality talent. Haley and Taylor Terry, Haley Bagwell, Kelsey Hawkins and Courtney Deese — just to name a few — have all been key parts of the Lady Bronco program in Adams’ tenure.

All those, however, came up short when compared with the tenacious Gambrill in one category — hustle points.

“You know, Meg handled the ball and led us in a lot of stuff you see in the paper and in our stat book,” Adams said. “But she also led us in the things you don’t see unless you attend the game. Tie-ups, blocks, grabbing loose balls. She actually graded out the highest of any girl I’ve coached in the seven years I’ve been here.”

What’s been the biggest change from year to year?

“Confidence,” Adams said without hestitation. “Knowing that she can play with anybody and believing that she’s a good and solid player.”

Gambrill’s role will increase tenfold next season, as the Green and White will have to replace four seniors — three starters — in their quest for a third consecutive Final 48 appearance.

With Stephens and Clingman coming back and junior varsity callups Ruth Horton, Adair Gillilan and Taylor Tankersley in the mix, the Broncos will still have a fairly talented roster in 2014.

And — if Gambrill continues to grow — Adams has no doubt things will continue to go well for the program moving ahead.

“Meg’s consistency was big for us this season and will be for next season,” the coach said. “She is so smart and disciplined in what she does. When she pursues something, she pursues it with everything she’s got. That’s why she’s so successful.”

Cullman’s Baylee Johnson made the strongest case to give Gambrill a run for her money at Player of the Year honors on the 2013-14 season.

The junior Bearcat was good for 22.3 points per game and 3.2 steals per contest. She notched a career-high 43 points in a blowout win over Dora and was routinely the top scorer for the Black and Gold, who finished 19-11 following their defeat to eventual state champion Wenonah at Wallace State back in February.

Look for those two future seniors to battle it out for the an opportunity to earn Player of the Year this time in 2015.

Joining Gambrill and Johnson on the heralded first team are Holly Pond’s Rachel Finley and Nastasha Holcombe, as well as Cold Springs’ Haley Freeman and Chloe Harbison.

The second team has its fair share of excellent talent, too — Cold Springs’ Caitlyn Hall, Holly Pond’s Taylor Rowell, Cullman’s Christina Skinner, Good Hope’s Kacy Thomas, and West Point’s Mallory Walker.

See the girls honorable mentions below:

Cold Springs

Bailey West

Emme Willoughby

Cullman

Hayden Short

Fairview

Kennedy Trimble

Taylor Ann Yeager

Good Hope

Katelyn Bishop

Kayla Scott

Hanceville

Bebe Flanigan

Holly Pond

Melissa Clingman

St. Bernard

Zoie Wilson

Vinemont

Katie Speer

West Point

Madison Rusk



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

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