Scott Phillips can openly admit it now.
“I think I had gotten a little relaxed with practice and with the way we went at it,” said Phillips, East Memorial boys basketball coach. “It woke me up to know that people could beat us, but I know it woke them up. … You always like to be humbled.”
The humbling occurred earlier this month, when the then-top seeded Wildcats were stunned by Eastwood in front of their home crowd during the AISA Class AA, Region 1 tournament to snap their 10-game winning streak.
The defeat was wholly unexpected, but it perhaps might work out to the eventual benefit of a squad on a mission to win a state title.
“We realized that we were not just going to step out and beat people,” Phillips said. “We went into that game only giving up 60 points just one time this year — one time. It showed us that if a team shoots well (Eastwood shot over 70 percent) and we don’t, we can be beat.
“Sometimes losses are good.”
East Memorial now has reached the point of the season where a setback would be not only humbling, but also devastating. Today at Huntingdon College, the Wildcats (26-3) will face Restoration in the state semifinals.
Huntingdon is the same venue where last season, EMCA dropped a 71-56 decision to Lee-Scott, the eventual state champions.
“Losing last year to Lee-Scott created that much more hunger for us coming into this year,” senior Chandler Warren said. “Then we lost to Eastwood, and we got that much hungrier. … I can honestly say this team really wants it (a championship) bad.”
Sophomore Jaylen McCoy agrees.
“It was in our hands last year,” said McCoy, who leads EMCA with 20.8 points per game. “I am hungry, and I’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
East Memorial isn’t the lone Prattville-based basketball team looking for a redemption in the AISA. In the girls tournament, Autauga Academy aims to earn a spot today in this year’s championship game when it takes on Lowndes Academy.
A season ago, the Generals quest for a perfect season ended in disappointment with a semifinal loss to Lakeside.
Despite losing a handful of key players to graduation, Autauga (24-2) returned a talented squad hungry to get to the next level.
“This means a lot, especially with such a young group,” Generals coach Brian Brock said following Thursday’s 44-39 quarterfinal win over Restoration. “Most of them have been on the team or in the system for the last couple of years. This has to probably be the biggest win I’ve ever had.”