“We’ve been really pleased with how we’ve done this year,” head coach Anne Hopkins said. “To only have one senior, we’re kind of a young team. So, we’re excited about the development that’s taken place over the season. I feel like everybody’s gotten better at every position.”
Jacksonville (20-7) is coming off a 57-46 victory against Hokes Bluff to capture the class 4A area 11 championship.
Jacksonville has two strong post players in 6’0” freshman Sierra Stone and 5’10” sophomore Dasia Kirksey. Junior point guard Angel Kidd has created havoc for teams this season by creating turnovers and scoring, often in tandem.
“They’ve got really good post players and they’ve got one really good point guard that can do pretty much whatever she wants to,” Hopkins explained. “So, our plan is to shut her down and really box out and rebound. Their post players are young, so we’re hoping that we’ll be able to contain them as long as we win the battle on the boards.”
Munford (15-5) is coming off a tough 59-14 loss to Anniston in the class 4A Area 10 championship. However, prior to that game, the Lady Lions had been playing well prior to the loss.
“We’ve really been peaking at the right time I feel like,” Hopkins said. “Minus Anniston, our shots have been falling, we’ve been playing great defensively and hopefully, we’ll have that momentum. It’s frustrating that we haven’t been able to get in the gym this week, but thankfully, Jacksonville is in the same situation. They haven’t been able to practice either. It’ll kind of be two teams that have been off for a week and we’ll just kind of see how it goes.”
Hopkins is hoping one of the team’s leading scorers, junior Kierra Groce, will help the team regain their normal scoring touch.
“We depend on her for so much and really she sets the tempo of the game for us,” she said. “We’re going to depend on her to do a good job defensively, but also to help us offensively because we’re coming off—we really struggled against Anniston. We only had 14 points. We’re going to really be dependent on her to help us kind of get back in a groove of how we normally play, which is we normally don’t have trouble scoring.”
Among shared opponents, both teams have losses to Anniston and wins against Saks. The Lady Lions lost to Anniston three times and beat Saks twice this season, while the Lady Golden Eagles lost to Anniston twice and beat Saks once this season.
Hopkins hopes the sting of last year’s 40-19 loss to Cherokee Co. will serve as motivation for her team in Friday night’s game. Specifically, the lone senior on the team, Ra’Aunna Caldwell, has expressed a strong desire to advance to the Northeast regionals at Jacksonville State.
“I think it’s an important stage for them to understand that it’s a do-or-die time,” Hopkins said. “They remember how it felt last year. We’re going to kind of go on that emotion of: don’t forget how it felt to go home defeated. If you can remember that emotion and that feeling that it’s completely over and there’s nothing else you can do, then hopefully it will motivate them to give their very best Friday.
“That’s what I always tell them: we want to play hard for 32 minutes and no matter what the results are, we want to be able to say we played the game and we don’t have any regrets about the effort that we gave.”