Lady Tigers are clicking at right time
Justin Schuver, Sports Editor
I know that Hartselle coach Greg Adams probably won't be happy with me writing this column just before the postseason, but these are still words that deserve to be written.
Sure, there's still a lot of basketball left to be played, but any local basketball fan has got to be impressed with the performance so far of the Hartselle Lady Tigers.
Hartselle's currently ranked No. 2 in the state (and has been since early January) with a 20-5 record and recently won its third tournament of the year as it took home the Morgan County Basketball Tournament crown.
The Lady Tigers have been playing nearly perfect ball lately, losing just once in their last 16 games as of Jan. 31. Area competition has been little challenge, with the Lady Tigers finishing 6-0 in area play and earning the right to host the Area 16 tournament starting Feb. 10.
Watching Hartselle play its best game, it's hard to imagine another Class 5A team capable of defeating the Lady Tigers. They have a strong inside game with Lauren Drake and Mary Virginia Reeves consistently scoring lay-ups and close shots; they have a great pair of outside shooters in Anna Reeves and Jessica Andrews; and they have a do-it-all guard in Shan Jones who can light it up from outside but isn't afraid to drive into the paint when she has to do so.
Hartselle is strong defensively, generally doesn't take off-balance or careless shots, and plays with the kind of chemistry you typically see from championship teams. It helps that all five players in Hartselle's normal starting line-up also played together last season, but even when coach Greg Adams brings in substitutes off the bench like Lauren Dye and Shauntee Smith, the Lady Tigers don't miss a beat.
Over the past five years, Hartselle's boys teams have had two trips to the Final Four in Birmingham. This season, don't be surprised if you see the Lady Tigers taking the court at the BJCC in late February.
This year's finish at the Section 2 meet might be tough to swallow for fans of the wrestling program who are used to seeing Hartselle win the meet and move on to compete strong at state. But there's still a lot of positives to take from this year's meet and still some great chances for Tigers to bring home some individual hardware.
Brad Eubanks at heavyweight fell short of an individual state title last season, losing to Gardendale's Chad Beardon in the final match. But he's in great shape to get back to the finals again this year, and told me "I'm ready to wrestle him right now" in a recent interview where I asked about Beardon.
Eubanks' match Saturday against Scottsboro's Richard Wayne was a great example of the kind of wrestler he can be. The Hartselle senior fell behind 4-3 early in the second round and continued to trail by a point as the clock ticked away. With just six seconds left in the round, Eubanks scored a takedown to go back in front 5-4.
He scored four more points in the final round to take the decisive victory.
"When he scored there near the end of the second round, I knew he was going to win," Hartselle coach Dan Styles said.
Another great story from Saturday's wrestling meet was Caleb Blanton's 140-pound title. Blanton was an anomaly on the 2005 team as the only member of the team to not qualify for state competition that year after suffering a close 5-4 defeat in his consolation semifinal match in Oxford.
Blanton did not get a chance to celebrate Hartselle's team title in 2005, but this year he'll have a chance to at least get a title of his own.