SYLACAUGA, Ala. – For the first time in school history, the Sylacauga boys and girls basketball teams will compete in the Final Four in the same season. Preparation for this moment started in may 2016, and now the moment both programs have worked for is here.
“The goal for both of our teams is to win a championship,” said Sylacauga Girls head coach Derrick Crawford. “We work close together as programs and it would be huge for both teams to win championships.”
Sure the game and stage is huge…but this game means a lot to the coaches on a personal level.
“We’re friends so we talk and fellowship,” said Sylacauga Boys Head Coach Will Copeland on his relationship with Crawford. “Basketball and other stuff comes second so it means more because of the friendship. I’m just very excited about both teams making it to the Final Four.”
Getting to the Final Four is not an easy task. Just ask Crawford. He said many balls have to bounce the right way for a team to make it this far. He said the his teams from the last few years had the same opportunity to make it this far, but injuries to key players derailed their season.
This season, the balls have bounced the right way for the Lady Aggies. The team has three starters from the 2014 team that played for a state title, and none suffered injuries this season. That has led to a stellar regular and postseason for Crawford’s team. The Girls only lost five games this season, none by double digits and all to ranked opponents. One of those losses was to their opponent in the State Semifinals, the Wenonah Dragons. The Dragons beat the Aggies in double overtime early in the regular season 58-54.
Crawford said he did not see one particular fault that led to the Aggies’ loss to Wenonah earlier in the year, and he believes his team does not have to be extraordinary. “We don’t not have to be great. We just have to be good,” he said. “I don’t want them to go out and play under pressure. We put them under pressure in practice so they can play loose and poised during the game.”
Although Crawford does not want his team to feel any pressure, Wenonah may try to apply the pressure when the Aggies have the ball. Crawford said the Dragons like to play press defense, and if his team cannot get them out of the press they might have a long day in the BJCC.
Crawford is also relying on his experience on this stage as a coach. He has been a part 11 Final Fours, two state championship teams and two state runner-up teams in his coaching career. He has everything down to a science including all of the logistics when it comes to travel. The ladies head to Birmingham Tuesday night. They will get rest before waking up for a morning shoot around at Birmingham Southern University. After the shoot around head back to the hotel, eat a pregame meal and then commute to the BJCC for the game which starts Wednesday at 3:00 p.m.
Coach Copeland’s boys will tip-off right after the girls finish. The game is set to start at 4:30 p.m. Their opponent, the Jemison Panthers. This will be a challenge for the Aggies. The Panthers have one of the best high school players in America in John Petty, but they are more than just a one man show. Copeland said the Panthers plays great in all phases of the game.
“They are really good and bring a lot to the table,” said Copeland. “They are a top quality team and they show that by the way they play defense and shoot the ball. They’re all around a good basketball team.”
Copeland thinks his team will have to play loose to win, but that is nothing new to his team. “Nothing seems to bother these guys,” he said. “They just go out and play. They never worry about losing. They just play.”
Both coaches feel that a big crowd cheering them on will help their teams in the Final Four, and are encouraging fans to pack the BJCC. “For us to look up and see family and friends cheering and supporting you is just a big deal to the kids,” said Copeland. Crawford said all teams are good that you play at this point in the year, so any extra advantage a team can get could affect the outcome, including fan support.
Yea!106.5 will be broadcasting both games live. You can listen to the Sylacauga Final Four games Wednesday afternoon by clicking here.
Jeremy Law for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2017, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.