Winterboro head coach Sheroderick Smith said developing his young players was one of the things that this play date helped him accomplish.
“Play dates are good to get a lot of practice in,” Smith said. “My focus as it always is, is on everyone that doesn’t start. That is where all the focus is on - my bench players. I have roughly four or five new girls that are playing for me this year. This team is different than last year, so we are trying to get the new girls all the work they can get in.”
The Lady Bulldogs went 2-0 in the play date, which included a thrilling come from behind victory over St. Jude, 26-24. Winterboro trailed 19-10 with seven minutes left in the game. Jasmine Richardson, Nadia Estelle and Anslea Twymon led Winterboro on a 16-5 run to end the game.
Richardson scored on a layup to cap a 10-0 run to give the Lady Bulldogs a 20-19 lead.
St. Jude responded as Jailyn Lover broke the Lady Bulldogs’ press and drove in for a layup to make it 21-20. With 55 seconds left in the game and the scored tied a 24-24, Winterboro decided to hold the ball for the last shot. Twymon held the ball at the top of the key until there was nine seconds was left on the clock. The rising freshman penetrated down the middle of the St. Jude defense for a layup to make it 26-24. Richardson stole the St. Jude inbounds pass to seal the victory.
“Fortunately, we went 2-0 (Wednesday), but I don’t focus on the wins or losses in the summer,” Smith said. “The game that we had against St. Jude, I think we were down by nine and we went on a 14-2 run and we won on a last second shot. Those defensive stops, steals and buckets were a very exciting time of the play date.”
The Lady Bulldogs defeated Smith’s alma mater in the opening game of the play date.
“When we played against Notasulga it was a nip and tuck game,” Smith said. “They are on our regular season schedule for next year and it is my alma mater. It is always good to battle against your alma mater on the girls’ side.”
Smith was impressed with a few of his newcomers on Wednesday.
“I thought that Aniya Boroughs, an upcoming eighth-grader did well in the play date,” Smith said. “Several other girls did well, but they have to get back into basketball shape and get back to playing basketball.”
On the boys’ side, Smith was trying to get his young team some playing experience.
“I have six sophomores and only two of them are returning,” Smith said. “I only have five kids returning from last year. We are young in a lot of aspects. I have a couple of seniors that are just now playing. Out of 14 kids, I only have two kids that played for me last summer.
“It is a rebuilding year, but the thing that I like about this squad is that once we are able to get focused on our goals and what we are trying to accomplish, this team will be exciting.”
After reflecting about the three games on Wednesday, Smith said he saw some very positive things from his group.
“I am excited about the boys’ games,” he said. “We had a couple of close games. The last game we really didn’t have an excuse for. We have to get in basketball shape. The boys went 1-2. We lost Pleasant Valley twice, because Notasulga’s boys’ team did not show.
“We beat Comer and that was another exciting game. That is our county rival.”
Winterboro got solid play from two rising seniors. Smith said helping his team gain confidence is going to be vital to their success next season.
“Taylor Garrett and Tory Cochran played well,” Smith said. “They are two seniors, and this is their first time playing varsity basketball. We are just going to have to build off that. I have to continue to instill in them confidence. We are still looking for a leader on the team, and we are still looking for guys that want to get better under my leadership.”
Pell City took a different approach towards to the play date as they only brought their girls’ junior varsity team to compete against varsity teams.
“We brought our JV up here so it is all ninth graders,” Junior Varsity head coach Casey Sims said. “We are really young and I was proud of them. We played really hard.”
The Lady Panthers went 0-2, but they were able to play Notasulga close until the final seconds. Sims said his team could build on the experience they gained.
“We have the Gadsden camp next week so I think this experience is going to help us a lot,” Sims said. “The more they play, the better they are going to be.”