“We actually came together more at the end of this season,” Quintessa Calhoun said. “We came together a lot more. We’ve been passing the ball to each other a lot. For the most part, we’ve been playing like a team; I guess that’s all that counts right now.”
Head coach Johnnie Johnson said he had his girls perform an early morning practice to prepare and they responded well.
“We got up Tuesday morning, got in the gym, and did a little bit in the gym,” he said. “Everybody showed up and got it done. It’s big—that early in the morning—when you get all the girls to show up and still go to class. We’re just trying to get them up and get them moving around.”
Johnson believes having several key players returning for the second straight year should be beneficial.
“I’ve got six girls that have been there before and I’ve got five that played a lot down there last year,” he said. “It’s good to be back, it’s good for those girls—they know what’s going on. They’re going to be nervous at tipoff, but after that, we just want to come out, play fast, try not to start slow and just try to be in the ballgame.”
Most of the team’s players are familiar with one of Calera’s top players, former Childersburg teammate Kalen Starks. Cierra Swain is still friends with Starks and admitted it will be strange playing against her.
“It’s going to be very different and kind of awkward because we were teammates, but me and Kalen were also very close,” Swain explained. “We were great friends. We still remain friends, even though she is gone. We’ve talked about the game, about how awkward it’s going to be. But we agreed to just leave it all on the court. Whatever happens, happens and when the game is over, we’re still going to have our friendship.”
Tariah Reynolds is also well aware of what Starks is able to contribute.
“She’s a good package,” Reynolds said. “She can shoot, she can drive, her free throws are awesome; she’s a good all-around player, so it’s going to be tough defending her but as a team we can get it done.”
Johnson said Starks is one of several challenges Childersburg will face from Calera.
“They’re a big challenge because they’re long, they’re tall, and they’ve got Kaylen Starks who played for Childersburg two years ago,” he said. “She’s going to be pumped up to play Childersburg and her teammates from two years ago are going to be pumped up to play her. Calera has a good point guard No. 4 (Tyesha Haynes), and then Starks and they’ve got a big girl inside No. 14 (A’kia Harris), about 5’10”. They’re going to put three 5’10” girls on the floor against us. So, it’s going to be a challenge (Thursday). We’ve just got to do some things—box out, try to limit our turnovers and I think we’ve got a chance but you’ve got to do those things and make free throws when you go to the free throw line.”
Childersburg advance to the regional tournament by beating Dadeville, 73-61. Dadeville ended Childersburg’s season last year at the Acadome in the Central Regional by beating Childersburg by a mere point, 42-41 to advance to the Final 48 in Birmingham. The team trailed entering the fourth quarter, but used a blistering defense and versatile offensive approach to earn the win.
“In the first half, I was shooting but my shots weren’t really falling,” Reynolds said. “In the second half, I knew in my head that I had to get to the goal, draw fouls, and make my free throws to keep us in the game and to get a lead in the game also.”
Quintessa Calhoun said the defense will once again be the key to the game for Childersburg against Calera.
“I know they’re going to play man (defense) a lot,” she said. “They’re going to drive a lot and probably try to get a lot of fouls on us, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to play and work things out with each other, keep our hands fanning instead of reaching out.”
The three Calhoun sisters, Caneasha, Quintessa and Shaquita, have been a big part of this year’s team. Shaquita said it’s been special to play with both of her sisters.
“Knowing that one of my sisters is leaving this year is a bit sad, but I still have another one that’s graduating with me,” she said. “I’m pretty comfortable with that. We have a lot of chemistry. We may say this and that to each other, just fussing at each other, but it’s not really fussing to us. It’s just giving advice and we take that into consideration. We just play good together, I feel.”