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March 1, 2013

FINAL 48 (Class 3A girls state final): Team chemistry sets Green and White apart

As one of the two remaining girls teams in Class 3A, Holly Pond has clearly proven it knows how to play the game of basketball at a high level.

The No. 7 Lady Broncos are lockdown defenders, can hit momentum-shifting 3-pointers at any given moment and are capable of holding their weight in the post, too. Those attributes aren’t uncommon of most squads at this late juncture in the season, but what sets Holly Pond apart from the rest of the state is its unity and its players’ love for each other.

“Basketball is so much more than your wins and losses. You hope your team becames a family and they create those friendships and memories that last forever. That doesn’t always happen, but I think it has with this team,” longtime Bronco coach Scott Adams said. “When it happens and you’re winning, really what happened with this team is almost surreal. I don’t think it’s even sunk in.”

Natasha Holcombe is just one of the 12 players on the roster that have helped the Green and White reach their first state title game in school history. The forward, who led Holly Pond with 12 points in Wednesday’s semifinal against Straughn, thinks of the girls on her squad as family members more than she does teammates.

“I look at these girls just like they’re my sisters,” Holcombe said. “We’re all friends. We work well as a team, and we don’t have any controversy. No one cares if their name is in the paper, or if it is, we don’t get jealous over it or anything.”

Rachel Finley, another key piece to the Broncos’ Final 48 puzzle, was on the same page as Holcombe. Sure, all the girls have basketball in common, but according to Finley, their relationships began far before any sport was ever involved.

“We just love each other. We’d do anything for each other really,” she said. “It’s just friendship. That’s what it is.”

Another link that has helped bind Holly Pond together is its strong faith. Every girl writes “PFG,” standing for “Play for God,” on the back of their hand before each game and also own shirts with the phrase printed on it.

“We’re all Christians,” Finley said. “We have a common faith, and that brings us together, too.”

The support the Lady Broncos have for each other was clearly evident on Thursday when Holcombe and Lacy Malone accompanied Adams to Birmingham to cheer on Taylor Terry in the 3-point competition. The senior wound up sinking 10 shots — two with money balls — for a 12-point total to defeat her opponent and advance to the final stage of the contest on Saturday evening.

For Holcombe, there was never any option other than being in the stands to root for Terry.

“If it was me, I would want the support from my team,” she said.

Holcombe added the players often tell their coach he’s spoiled because “we’re such good girls and never give him any trouble.” Although the junior said it in jest, Adams couldn’t agree more with Holcombe’s assessment.

“They’re girls of strong character,” he said. “They really are.”

Adams added the No. 7 Broncos’ road to the BJCC has been a fun ride he wouldn’t trade for anything. No matter the score in Saturday’s Class 3A girls title tilt at 9 a.m. versus No. 2 Lauderdale County, Holcombe will be able to walk off the court knowing she has her best friends by her side.

“If we win or if we lose, we still have each other,” she said. “We made it this far. It still means a lot.”

% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at robk@cullmantimes.com.

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