By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
HOLLY POND —
Pisgah got first dibs at crushing Holly Pond’s hopes and dreams for a Final 48 Tournament berth. Then Saks took a shot at the Broncos. By the time Plainview tried and fell short to quiet the Green and White’s season-long quest, it was a wonder the three teams even tried in the first place.
Simply put, nothing was going to stand in the way — myriad squads tried and failed terribly — of the No. 3 Broncos (31-3) cashing in on their desire to return to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex for this week’s Final 48 Tourney.
Scott Adams’s players will look to take their first step toward a state final matchup — and potential rematch with top-ranked Lauderdale County — on Thursday, when they hit the floor to battle it out with Class 3A No. 7 Trinity Presbyterian at 6 p.m.
While the longtime coach had yet to see the Wildcats on film by Monday, he’d come to find out a few tidbits about his upcoming foe.
“When you play someone that’s so far away — Trinity makes its home in Montgomery — it’s tough because you do not have any common opponents to compare to,” Adams said. “They do like to play up-tempo, and they love to press. They’re also very good at getting 3-point baskets in their offensive sets. In many ways, they’re a lot like us.”
The Wildcats earned their state-tournament berth following a 63-58 victory over Greensboro last Saturday eve. Seniors Janie Hampton and Claire Wilder combined for 46 points in the win — the former had 31 — to grab a Central Regional Tourney title.
They sport a 26-2 record and — according to their schedule — play exceptional defense in almost all of their triumphs.
Unlike her coach, Meg Gambrill took the less analytical approach when speaking about her team’s next challenge.
“I’ve never even heard of them,” the junior said. “But if they made it here, they’ve got to be pretty good. They’re standing in the way of our dream of winning a state title, though.”
While Adams won’t have to break out the clipboard or his traditional sweater vest until Thursday, he’s most definitely going to have to do his best coaching in the days to come.
Even though the Broncos have a tough matchup in Trinity, they can’t help but look ahead — albeit, slightly — to a huge potential rematch with No. 1 Lauderdale County (36-0) on Saturday.
Adams, though, outlined the dangers of doing such a thing.
“These girls are very mature,” he said. “They know if we lose, it would have been silly to be looking ahead of things. We know that everything is a one-game season. We focus on what we’ve got and know the reward will come if we don’t look ahead. That will rob you of that reward if you aren’t careful. We aren’t even thinking of a rematch right now.”
Gambrill, however, said she believes the squad can put all its focus on Trinity but still have some leftover for the Tigers.
“Honestly, I think we know even though we are focusing on our current opponent, we are focusing on Lauderdale County, too,” she said. “It was the same thing last year with Straughn, who was a really good team. I think we did that then and are doing that now, because we know that beating Lauderdale in the state final is the ultimate prize. We are not looking past Trinity, though.”
Although last year’s magical journey came up one win short, Adams is well aware his team didn’t come away empty-handed.
The Broncos are hoping that their appearance in the BJCC will lead to more confidence, more calmness and a better result.
For the coach, he believes that’s exactly what’ll happen.
“Anytime you do something first time, it’s unknown,” Adams said. “The more you play on big stages and are in the spotlight, the more comfortable you are. That’s going to help us a lot.”
With just two long days standing between them and reality, Gambrill thinks she and her teammates will have a combination of “excitement, nerves and confidence” when they march onto the court.
She doesn’t, however, plan on letting the community down, nor the four seniors — Natasha Holcombe, Rachel Finley, Taylor Rowell and Kristen Sparks — on this year’s squad.
“We know how this feels,” she said. “Everybody in Holly Pond loves it. We are also using the sting of the loss to motivate us. We don’t want that to happen. I don’t want to have the seniors feel that. It was hard to see Taylor (Terry) go through all that. It was just a bitter feeling last season.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at email@example.com.