CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

February 26, 2014

TALKIN’ FINAL 48: Three-time state-champion coach Tammy West gives take on Lady Broncos

By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times

— We here at The Times have been telling you all week — heck, all season — why Holly Pond’s girls basketball team is just so gosh darn good.

It gets tiring, I’m sure.

That’s why I’m willing to step aside for a second and let somebody else do the talking for once. And with the kind of credentials longtime Cold Springs coach Tammy West has, I think everyone should listen.

In 22 years atop the program, West has steered the Lady Eagles to three Class 2A state championships and four Final 48 appearances.

Even still, her latest batch of Blue and Gold girls, perennial county and postseason contenders, couldn’t quite keep up with the latest Lady Broncos, who are on their way to Birmingham for the second year in a row. Holly Pond edged its rival by seven points in each of the first two meetings and dismantled the Eagles by 20 points in the county tourney title tilt.

Despite the 0-3 showing — or more likely because of it — West has all the respect in the world for the kind of winning operation Scott Adams is running in Green and White country. Among her many compliments, she said the current Broncos play exceptionally well together, are disciplined, communicate effectively on defense, have some size and fulfill their roles to a T.

“It’s like the little Rowell girl,” West said of Holly Pond senior Taylor Rowell. “She’s not the star of the team, but she just plays her role, and she does it so well. I think they all play their role and any one of them can step up on any night and be the leading scorer.”

No matter if the end result in 2012-13 was a runner-up finish to Lauderdale County, the Broncos have championship game experience, which goes miles with West. Better yet, the Green and White returned four starters — seniors Natasha Holcombe, Rachel Finley and Rowell, as well as junior Meg Gambrill — from that squad, hopefully meaning they’ll have more confidence when they retake the big stage Thursday against Trinity Presbyterian.

Throw in the fact Holly Pond split its season series with Madison Academy — which came a late 3-pointer away from taking Lauderdale County to double overtime in the Northwest Regional Tournament decider — all the better. The Lady Broncos avenged a 30-point loss on the road with a 53-48 triumph inside the friendly confines of Felton Easterwood Gymnasium.

“Maybe had they not played that game, they might be thinking about what Lauderdale did to them last year,” West said. “But I think seeing what happened Saturday, that’s got to make Holly Pond feel good about their chances. It’s got to give them some confidence.”

And confidence, according to the coach, cannot be overstated at this late juncture in the season. It was with that trait, as well as a sprinkle of experience and dash of determination, that allowed Cold Springs to erase an 18-point deficit en route to a second straight state championship in 2009.

“That’s what you have to have. You can’t go down there and play scared. They can’t be thinking about what happened last year,” West said. “They’ve had a great year. They’ve already beaten, to me, one of the best teams in the state in 3A. Now they’ve just got to beat the other one. If anybody is going to have them ready, it’ll be Scott. He’ll be prepared for anything.”

West, a fierce competitor and tireless gameplanner herself, is well aware of what kind of time has gone into making the Lady Broncos’ run of three Final 48 appearances in the last five five years a reality. Those kinds of achievements don’t just magically appear in random gyms overnight.

“Having been there and knowing how much hard work it takes, I really admire what they’ve been able to accomplish this year,” West said. “Everybody needs to look at that, all the other players, and know they didn’t get to where they are by not working hard in the offseason.'

% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at robk@cullmantimes.com.