CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

February 27, 2014

FINAL 48 NOTEBOOK (Class 3A Girls): Holly Pond unsurprised by return to state title tilt

By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times

BIRMINGHAM — Natasha Holcombe relaxed at the podium following Holly Pond’s superb 63-37 state semifinal win over No. 7 Trinity Presbyterian with a big smile on her face and a half-finished Gatorade in her right hand.

The senior, however, wasn’t interested in talking about the team’s Thursday-night triumph over the Wildcats; nor was she the least bit keen to discuss her 14-point, 10-rebound game that helped the Green and White seal the deal on their 32nd victory of the season.

Instead, Holcombe delivered a brief but strong message to those in attendance at the postgame press conference — it’s finally time.

“We’ve been wanting this next game ever since the buzzer went off last year,” she said of her team’s Saturday showdown with undefeated No. 1 Lauderdale County. “That is what we’ve been working on all year — to get back to this point again. It’s a great feeling that we have right now.”

Holcombe is, of course, referring to last season’s 59-41 loss in the Class 3A state finale to the Tigers — one which left the Broncos chomping at the bit for redemption.

In fact, it was really the only goal that mattered entering the 2013-14 campaign.

“Getting back to the state final and getting on the floor with Lauderdale was our gold standard all year,” Meg Gambrill said. “We’ve been ready for this game for a long time. We knew we could get back here.”

Along the way, the Broncos picked up a 32-3 record, their second straight Cullman County Tournament crown, a sixth consecutive area title and yet another Northeast Regional Tourney piece for the trophy case.

For Scott Adams — who’s been front row for his squad’s performances this year — he couldn’t be happier about what’s transpired over the past four months.

“It’s an incredible thing to have a goal, set out to accomplish it and get it,” the coach said. “So many teams would love to be where we are. I’m really proud of these girls for doing what they set out to do. It takes great character to do something like that.”

% Take A Load Off: With his team up a comfortable 30 points midway through the third frame, Adams didn’t quite know what to do with himself.

He wasn’t having to do much coaching, but he wasn’t exactly thinking about his upcoming vacation, either.

Not that he’s complaining, though.

“I never would have dreamed that would have happened,” he said of the Broncos’ large cushion. “It’s really a testament to the type of schedule we’ve played so far. I kind of like it. It was nice not to have to get worked up too much.”

% All Smiles — Most of the Time: Taylor Rowell is quite easy to spot on the basketball court. Just look for the smile.

The Lady Bronco senior is well known for her happy-go-lucky demeanor when Holly Pond is strutting its stuff on the floor.

On Thursday, however, Rowell took a brief pause from her usual sunny disposition to sport the meanest of scowls over the final few minutes of the second quarter.

While scrambling for a steal, she took an elbow right on the nose from a Trinity player and fell to the ground clutching her face.

Needless to say, she wasn’t pleased.

“I hate getting hurt,” Rowell said. “I hate it. When somebody hurts me, I get really mad. Not at them, but just the fact that I got hurt. She got me right in the face, too.”

According to Rowell, she broke her nose back in summer ball via a shot from teammate Ruth Horton.

“Oh well, it’s just another one right in the nose,” she said.

Rowell went on to score a layup on the Green and White’s ensuing possession.

% Don’t Foul It Up: Adams and Gambrill have a pretty easy relationship on the court.

When the junior doesn’t foul, Adams doesn’t yell. If Gambrill does foul, then she’s subject to her coach’s wrath.

The guard made sure to hold up two fingers toward her coach to show the number of fouls she had while departing in the fourth frame.

“We have fun with that most of the time,” Adams said with a laugh. “My brother told her on the way to the locker room at halftime to not pick up a foul before the third quarter. At times she gets a bit hyped up, but we still want her aggressive.”

For Gambrill, she’s used to it.

According to her, she has to hear it from a ton of people on a daily basis — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“It’s not just coach,” she said in faux exasperation. “It’s been my dad, coach’s brother, my grandmother and the rest of the family tree, too. They’re all like ‘Don’t foul!’ So when I got my first foul late in the game, Taylor (Rowell) asked me if that was really my first one. I was like, ‘Yeah, get you some of that.’

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