“Last year, we decided that we were going to lay our hat on defense,” Crawford said. “We feel like if you can scored 48-50 points-we are averaging 59 points per game. We feel like if we can hold our opponents to nine points or less a quarter we will have the opportunity to win every night.”
Sylacauga defeated Talladega and Childersburg to advance to the finals. Crawford said his team is going to focus on this game just like any other game.
“It has been a long time,” Crawford said. “Actually, when I had Shanarra Hollinquest was the last time we won it. We were actually in the championship game two years ago when Shakayla (Thomas) was a freshman. Talladega beat us for it at Childersburg. We were probably a half away from it being a more competitive game. We really didn’t play a competitive game, because we were loaded with freshmen. That was a freshman heavy team, which a lot of those juniors are walking the halls because they were not sold out playing the basketball that we want to play. For whatever reason they decided that they didn’t want to come back and the ones that stayed are reaping the benefits right now. It has been a couple years since we played in it and we are treating just like it is another ball game.”
“Defense is going to get us to where we want to be and that is Birmingham,” Thomas said. ”Defense, defense, defense; you can take a break on offense, but not on defense. Playing defense is going to win you the game. Offense sales tickets and defense wins championships.”
Destiny Wilson takes holding her opponent in check on defense personally. The junior sets goals on what she wants to accomplish each night on defense.
“Defense is where we lay our hat,” Wilson said. ”We take pride in our defense. We work on defense every day and get hyped in the gym just by playing defense. My personal goal is for my girl has over six points that is too much and I feel like I have done my job.”
Crawford said that pride in defense is something that he stresses to middle school players and it has paid off.
“We get our middle school kids and we work them the entire summer,” Crawford said. “They work with these older girls. When they come up their mentality is the same as these older kids of being able to compete at a high level and play great defense. Not necessarily score a lot of points, but play defense. If you can play defense you have a chance to play for us and that what we tell all of them. It doesn’t matter if you are 12 years old or 18 years old. If you sale out on defense you got a chance to play. That is what we do and it has paid off for the middle school kids for the last two or three years. They work out with us in the off-season and not separate us. They stay with me with my older kids, so they will be able to develop and no only that if need to pull them up they will be able to play.”
Another a reason the Lady Aggies have been successful is because of the play of Kiara Pope. The freshman point guard runs the show without turnover the ball over.
“Being a freshman guard is a lot of pressure, but I can do it,” Pope said. “ I lead my team.”
Crawford is very impressed with his freshman guard.
“She currently has 16 starts under her belt,” he said. ”She is the boss and the girls know her as the boss on our team. She is a freshman, but they know her as the boss. She is the co-captain beside Shakayla. She comes to work and normally doesn’t come out of ball games. She is the one girl that I feel like I need on the court in order us to be successful. When we played Childersburg last Friday, I think they did a good job keeping the ball out of her hands to keep us from running our offense. She makes everything go. Everything goes through her for us to click offensively and defensively. She is going to be a special talent before she leaves here. She has college coaches that have come in that likes the way she works and like the way she runs the team. By time she leaves here she is going to be a special basketball player.”
Crawford has a lot of respect for the way that Winterboro head coach Sheroderick Smith has built his program over the past few seasons. Coming into tonight’s game Crawford wants this to be the team that regains their county dominance like they had in the 1980’s and 90’s.
“We are expecting a good game out them tomorrow,” Crawford said. “11 is a good player, No. 2, the guard up top is a good player. No. 3 is a good player, No. 21 is a good player. It should be fun for the fans to watch of Talladega County. I think it is good for girls basketball. We have two new teams playing in the championship. We have a long history of winning championships. At one point we won 14 in a row, before we were finally dethroned. Childersburg dethroned us and I think it was Principal Hubert’s first year coaching. Since then we have been up and down as far as winning the county championships. I want to say that was around 1998-1999 year. From 1986 until Sylacauga owned the county tournament. We are working towards that goal again.” Our goal is we want to dominate the county, but at the same time everybody else is working as hard as we are working. That team up the road, Talladega has gotten a lot better. They will be right in the mix with us, Childersburg and Winterboro next year. The county looks good as far as girls basketball.”