Lady Tigers can make the post-season
Charles Prince, Sports Editor
The Lady Tigers will be without junior Shan Jones for the rest of the season, but don't count them out of the race for the area title and a berth in the state playoffs.
Jones, who injured her knee against Decatur in the finals of the River City Classic, has a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament, which requires surgery and will keep her out until next season. She was the second Lady Tiger whose season ended due to a knee injury, Tiffahne Orr had previously had her season ended just weeks before.
Undaunted by the task of playing without them, the Lady Tigers showed their poise and desire last Friday against Athens in a key area matchup. Falling behind by 16 points early in the third period didn't faze the Hartselle girls, they just keep playing, tightened up on the defensive end and controlled the boards, as they stormed back for a confidence-building victory.
Losing Jones and Orr hurts, but this team can still host an area tournament with three more wins. After beating Athens, the Lady Tigers are halfway to a regular-season area championship with a 3-0 mark. A return date at Athens won't be easy, and a home-and-home series with Russellville remains. However, those three games are unquestionably winnable if the girls play the way they did against Athens.
If anyone wondered what an All-State basketball player looked like, they had to look no further than Lauren Drake. She was named honorable mention All-State last season as a freshman. In case anyone forgot it, Drake showed why she deserved the selection with her outstanding play the final two periods against Athens.
Her dominating performance with 31 points, 14 boards, five blocks, two steals and two assists showed what an all-around basketball talent she is. Prior to Jones suffering her injury, Drake's scoring average was down due to some early-season illness, but she appears to be back in top form after Friday.
The Athens scoring barrage followed Drake's 21-point performance at Muscle Shoals, as Hartselle played its first full game without Jones.
Even with Jones and Orr out, this team can still put up enough points to be a post-season threat.
Anna Reeves played at half-speed Friday due to a sore ankle. When she's healthy, she too can be a consistent double-digit scorer. But it doesn't stop there, Jessica Andrews and Anna Reeves can both hit the three-point shot. Kayla Orr and Shauntee Smith can put points up in the paint when needed.
There's plenty of rebounding and defense left even without Shan and Tiffahne. However, this team still has some growing to do over the final weeks of the season. First, they need to improve their ball security when facing a pressing defense, and second they must cut down on costly turnovers in the transition game.
If those two areas improve, this team will be one tough draw for anyone come state tourney time.
Losing a pair of quality players has hurt their cause, but it's not a lost cause.
Expect to see this team playing in the Northwest Regional at Wallace State come February.