“The kids are extremely hungry to get back here to Montgomery and we had some success here in Montgomery before,” Crawford said. “We want to get a bad taste out of mouths that we left here last year. We will be hungry come 9 a.m. tipoff time when the Lady Aggies get ready to play.”
The Lady Aggies should not be affected by the early tip off time as they played two early morning games in the Ball-N-Prep tournament at Faulkner in December. Sylacauga trains in the off-season to prepare for early games.
“We played at Faulkner during the Christmas break and had two early morning ball games,” Crawford said. “But what we do, we train over the summer-all of our strength and conditioning and the track work that we do normally starts at 8 or 9 all summer to prepare our kids to get used to playing and working in that kind of slot. Our kids are very accustomed to that time slot. This morning (Thursday), we got in there at 9 a.m. and we went to work this morning fine tuning for them.
Paul Bryant (25-4) advanced to the Central Regional tournament by defeating Selma 64-48 in the sub-regional tournament. The Lady Stampede had three girls score in double digits in the win: Marquanda Anderson scored 17 points, Shannel Washington scored 13 points and Jade Ladet scored 11 points. Crawford said that Paul Bryant has several players that they have to contain to advance to the Elite 8.
“Paul Bryant is a very good basketball team,” Crawford said. “Our team will have to play well to win the ball game, but from this point on everybody that you play is a good basketball team. They have a point guard No.5 Destinee Wilson. She is a pretty good ball player; she tries to make everything go. They have another kid by the name of Bria Smith, which is (Central Coosa) Coach Belyeu’s granddaughter. She is a senior forward; she shoots the ball pretty decent as well. She is very aggressive defensively. No. 21 Shannel Washington, she is a senior. She is a two guard/point guard. She is a very good basketball player in her own right. No. 25 MarQuanda Washington, she is there go-to person; she is averaging 20 points a ball game. She can shoot the three ball, she is very aggressive defensively. We will have to a great job of keeping her in check tomorrow. They have a big kid that comes off the bench in Amanda Ford. She is a sophomore; she is 6-foot-2, 298 pounds. We have to account for her when she is on the floor to make sure she does not dominate the boards. She doesn’t play very long, but she is very effective when she comes in the ball game. They have a couple more kids coming off the bench: Jada Hughes is another outstanding shooter that they bring in. It is going to be a great challenge; we present a lot of problems for them at the same time. We think we are going to match up pretty good with them.”
The Lady Aggies (25-3) defeated Ben Russell, 60-48 to advance to the Central Regional Tournament. Shakayla Thomas led Sylacauga with 39 points, while freshman guard Tierra Dark scored 12 points. On the season, Thomas averages 36 points, 15 rebounds, six steals and four assists per game. Crawford believes Paul Bryant will play zone and a box and 1 to try to slow down Thomas, but Crawford has confidence that the rest of the team will be prepared to step up and score.
“I think they will come at us with a 2-3 zone and some box and 1 to try to slow Shakayla down, but Tierra Dark, Taniya Garrett, Kayla Dark, Ebony Mitchell can step in and really help us in this ball game,” Crawford said. “We need our support people tomorrow, those kids coming off the bench whether it is rebounding, playing great defense or just putting put backs in. It could be a very exciting ball game; they have a very good team after breaking down the film and evaluating them. They have a good basketball team and I don’t understand why it wasn’t in the top 10 all season long considering that they are 25-3. They are solid; their coach does a good job with them. We are going to line up and pressure them and see what’s going to happen.”
For Sylacauga, this is the third straight season that they have earned a trip down to the Dunn-Oliver Acadome. Crawford said that his entire team is focused on what they have to do to win today’s game. For the Lady Aggies, what happened in the past at Alabama State is something that they have built off of, but something that won’t be on their mind when they step on the court this morning.
“We are very hungry,” Crawford said. “We are focused. We have taken this one game approach here and this is game one for us and we are looking to go 1-0 tomorrow. Our kids are very focus. I am blessed to have a bunch of young kids with my seniors being focused the way that they are focus. We walk around here like a veteran ball team and I like this team chances if we play Sylacauga basketball. Some people say we have a monkey on our back; there is no monkey on our back. We just have to line up and we have to do what we do well. If these kids do what we do well we are going to be very successful tomorrow. I expect a huge crowd from Sylacauga in the morning at 9 a.m. With our fans behind us in the morning I think it could really be a great day for Sylacauga basketball.”
Tipoff is set for 9 a.m. today at Dunn-Oliver Acadome in Montgomery.