No matter the sport, there’s always a measuring stick opportunity coaches used in an attempt to gauge the potential of their respective squads.
Prattville Christian girls basketball coach Jason Roberson isn’t any different.
Even with a roster bolstered with a 6-foot-1 Division I signee and three returning key players, Roberson didn’t seem too optimistic early on about the chances of PCA possibly securing a spot for the state tournament during the school’s inaugural season in the AHSAA.
“I could tell as the season went on that we were going to be pretty good,” Roberson said. “I really didn’t have any idea that we would be quite as successful as we have been, or having a really good chance at making it to the Final Four.”
One tournament made him a believer.
It was at the Autauga County tournament that the Panthers (33-0) gained all the confidence to fuel them to reach today’s Class 2A state semifinal matchup with Tanner (15-16). Tip-off is slated for noon at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center.
The late December tourney offered the first opportunity for the Panthers to finally go toe-to-toe against the county’s most formidable foe — Prattville.
Not only did PCA walk away with a 54-47 victory in the championship game, but it accomplished the feat without starter Sydney Bell, who sat out because of a concussion.
“When we were able to win that game without our starting point guard, I knew we had something special going on,” said Roberson, whose team went 2-0 against 6A teams. “That’s when I thought that once we get everybody back, we are going to have a chance to make a run (at the state championship).”
At the time, the win over the Lions perhaps could have served as a substitute for a state crown. With the Panthers transitioning from the AISA, the matchup proved to be much more than a typical meeting between two neighboring schools.
“They’re Prattville and we’re Prattville Christian, and everyone thought they were going to blow us out of the water,” said senior Kristen Emerson, a Troy signee. “We came out ready to play. We were pretty pumped about it because it was a good win.
“Just seeing that we beat a 6A school, we were thinking maybe we could take this further than expected. We started working harder; it just gave us more hope to get to where we are at right now.”
The Dec. 22 triumph also marked the first and only time the Panthers failed to defeat an opponent by double digits, raising some concerns by the head coach.
Since then, PCA’s smallest margin of victory remains a 13-point win over Lanett.
“It concerns me a little bit that we’ve only played one single-digit game,” Roberson said. “I expect these games here at the Final Four to be close and very hard fought. We’ve only played one game where it came down to the very end and that concerns me.”