When the Lowndes Lady Vikettes travel to Bradwell today for the first round of the AAAAA state playoffs, they know they have a formidable task in front of them.
"No one has beat Bradwell yet. We hope to play solid defense and keep the game close until halftime, and the early nerves will wear off and my young kids will settle in and play," Lowndes coach Shan Garner said.
Lowndes comes in as the fourth seed from Region 1-AAAAA. The team is relatively young with only one returning starter.
Garner’s squad started the season 14-0 but stumbled once it got into region play.
The Lady Vikettes were forced to win a play-in game to even make the region tournament.
"We led every game this year but lost in the last 2 minutes of the fourth quarter. This group could have gone 28-0. We lost six games by a total of 15 points," Garner said.
The real nemesis for Lowndes is inexperience. According to Garner, the Lady Vikettes have been trying to find consistency in scoring. Keira Peak, Garner’s best scorer from last season and one of the best players in school history, is now playing for the University of Arkansas.
"We have struggled to replace Keira’s offense and rebounding this season. We are very young with one senior starter. We are starting to get some good minutes from post players who did not have a lot of court time coming into the season because they were playing behind two starters," Garner said.
Lowndes has two strong athletic guards in Danyelle Jones and Taylor Nichols. Jones and Nichols provide much of the offense and defensive quickness for the Lady Vikettes. Six-foot post Courtne Washington and 5-foot-8 Kenya Durden give Lowndes an inside presence and a force on the boards.
"I am in my seventh season here and we have averaged at least 21 wins a season over that time but every season brings new challenges. We have great respect for any team that goes undefeated. We know our task is great, but you never know sometimes and that is the beauty of sports," Garner said.
Lowndes’ height presents concern for Bradwell coach Faye Baker.
"We have really been working on blocking out. They have a couple of tall post players that allow them to get more offensive rebounds. We know that we have got to get a body on them and really block them out so they don’t get extra shot attempts. We also know that they have a really strong, quick guard," she said.
Putting together a scouting report, Baker discovered that Lowndes predominantly plays a man-to-man defense.
The Lady Tigers have flourished this season against teams that try to play them in man, with the guards beating people off the dribble, quick ball movement and backdoor cuts.
Baker also learned the Lady Vikettes do not handle or like strong defensive pressure, which is the trademark of the Lady Tigers. But she expects a battle.
"We are going to keep working on the things that we do and get better at doing them. We know we are going to have to block out on the boards. Lowndes won 21 games, and at this stage of the game you have to be able to play to get here. There are no easy games from here on out," Baker said.
No. 1 seed Bradwell faces Region 1 No. 4 seed Lowndes tonight in the first round of the AAAAA state playoffs at 6 p.m.
Admission is $7.