“It’s always great to host the area tournament at your place,” head coach Johnny Johnson said. “You don’t have to make the long trips to Elmore Co., Dallas Co., etc. So, it’s fun to be at home. We hope the community will come out Thursday at 6:30 to support us. We need a big crowd out for the first game. The first game starts at 5 and we play at 6:30, so it’s just big to host the area tournament. Any time you can host, it’s a plus for your team.”
During the regular season, Childersburg won all of their area game, but Johnson said starting today everything starts anew.
“It makes no difference how we beat them first time or the second time,” he said. “You come Thursday it’s 0-0. You want to win that first game. If you can win that first game, that’ll get you into the area championship and into the sub-regional. Again, we want to just come out, play well, and win the first ball game.”
One of the team’s starters, Cierra Swain, expects to win the area tournament, although she knows every team is going to play their best game with an entire season hinging on one game.
“I definitely expect to win it; I expect teams to play probably a lot better than they have played us in the past because right now everybody is fighting to keep playing because if you lose, it’s over,” she said. “So, I’m sure a lot of teams are going to come out and play faster, play better, and just give it their all. We have to do the same in order to win. I definitely think we have a great chance of winning.”
Last year, the team won their area tournament to advance to the sub-regionals. They defeated Handley in their sub-regional game to advance to play in the regionals at Alabama State.
“For our first time, it felt really good,” starting point guard Tariah Reynolds. “We felt very accomplished, proud, something to bring back to the community so they can get involved not just with basketball but with women’s basketball here at the high school because we haven’t been the favorite sport around town. It’s just always good to bring it back home to the community, something for them to look forward to.”
Swain said she’s seen a lot of her teammates experience growth throughout this season.
“We lost Mac (Kelley), which was a big part of our season,” Swain said. “Now, we know what each of us can do because a lot of people are getting more playing time this year than they got last year. So, we know who can do what and just how to pass the ball to each other. We have grown a lot. Our chemistry has become great now compared to the beginning of the season.”
The Lady Tigers lost a number of key seniors last year, but this year’s senior group has included key players in Swain, Caneasha Calhoun, and Tia Wells.
Wells said that while she comes off the bench, she tries to demonstrate positive leadership qualities.
“I don’t start; I don’t do much,” she said. “But when I get in, I play hard and I tell the girls ‘We always do good sportsmanship no matter what. No matter who started it or who didn’t start it.’ You show good sportsmanship and you play hard.”
Calhoun said her leadership goals are similar with an emphasis on keeping her teammates in a positive mind frame.
“It’s not letting people talk down on each other and all that kind of stuff and helping them stay focused and not think about other stuff that get in the way,” she said.
Reynolds felt that several weeks ago something seemed to be just a little off center for the team, but in the last few weeks things have taken a turn for the better.
“Our shots haven’t been falling; we’ve been out of sync a little bit, but since the previous weeks we’ve been having good practices,” she said. “The chemistry has been flowing well and we just communicate better on the court, which makes it better in the game.”
Wells agreed that her team has really developed a shared bond over the course of the season.
“Playing more and playing as a team, I think we have grown together as sisters,” she said. “We know each other now to where we can play with each other and say ‘Here, I trust you with the ball. I trust you to do this. I trust you to make this shot.’ We’re at that point now, so we’re not scared to tell each other ‘I trust you.’”