Next up for Hartselle: Ramsay
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle's Greg Adams always knew his team would have to face Ramsay somewhere along the line if the Lady Tigers wanted to win the Class 5A state title. The Lady Rams will be Hartselle's semifinal opponent at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex Friday at 9 a.m.
"They'd been in our region for so long and this year they were moved to the Central," Adams said. "But I knew as soon as the brackets came out in November that if we advanced to Birmingham we'd probably face Ramsay in that first game."
Ramsay is the three-time defending state champion in Class 5A and has been ranked No. 1 in the Alabama Sportswriters Association poll all year long. The Lady Rams come to Birmingham with a 31-2 record after defeating Jess Lanier 59-49 in the Central Regional final in Montgomery.
Hartselle also has a bit of history with Ramsay. The Lady Rams were responsible for ending Hartselle's season in 2005 when the Lady Tigers fell to Ramsay 53-39 in the Northwest Regional semifinal.
"They just have this mindset at their program that they're not going to lose," Adams said. "I think that kind of mindset has helped them win some games where they weren't playing at their best, just because they have that attitude to pull them through."
Ramsay has lost a few games this season, however, including one game to a team Hartselle defeated. The Lady Rams lost to Carver-Montgomery in November and also fell to Avondale (Ga.) in the finals of an Atlanta area tournament. Hartselle defeated Carver-Montgomery 55-45 in December's River City Classic tournament in Decatur.
Adams said Ramsay has several facets to make them a good team.
"They play some outstanding defense man-to-man," he said. "Their guards are probably a little better than Wenonah's."
The Lady Rams have two seniors who were on that 2005 team that defeated Hartselle at Wallace State. Those seniors are Katherine Graham, who signed with LSU, and point guard Jamelia Kennedy. Graham is the team's leading scorer.
Ramsay is coached by Robert Mosley, who made the trip to Hanceville to watch both of Hartselle's games at the Northwest Regional.
"You watch them play and a few things stick out," Mosley said. "First, they're very efficient on offense, it seems like they always get a good shot and never rush things. Their post players are very active and athletic and I was impressed at how well they handled Wenonah's press.
"They only had nine turnovers against Wenonah, and that's impressive against a team that presses so often."
Mosley seconded Graham and Kennedy's importance to his team but also talked about the contributions from post player Kaneisha Horn and freshman Kadra Matthews, who he called "my best post defender."
He said that the Lady Rams do not have a set starting five but instead vary their line-ups based on the opponent.
"We try to play team ball," he said. "We just try to play toward our strengths depending on the game and opponent, and that's why we don't really have a starting rotation."
Mosley does not believe his team is at an advantage because of its experience in Birmingham – this is Ramsay's fourth straight trip to the Final Four.
"Our first year here (in 2004) we faced Eufaula in the first round and they had been at the Final Four the year before," he said. "But we beat them pretty handily, and I don't think it's that big a deal if you've been before or not.
"I'm not sure it's an advantage for us. We know that Hartselle will be tough."
Mosley said he knows Ramsay will have to deal with not only Hartselle's players, but also the Lady Tigers' faithful fans.
"I want to say that I've always admired the good support in the Huntsville-Decatur area," he said. "Anytime we play someone from north Alabama they always bring in a lot of fans and we know that Hartselle will be no different."