It was obvious that Prattville Christian girls basketball coach Jason Roberson wasn’t comfortable about his team’s performance after the break on Tuesday.
Good thing Kristen Emerson and her teammates put on an incredible display through the first two quarters to make the final two not matter as much.
Behind a dominating first-half showing, the Panthers remained unbeaten with their 52-31 victory over Tanner in the Class 2A semifinal game at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center.
PCA (34-0) now advances to Friday’s championship game against Woodland (33-2) at 9 a.m. The red-hot Panthers will attempt to become the first AHSAA girls squad to finish out the season with an unblemished record since J.F. Shields did so in 2010.
“I think our girls played really hard today, but I don’t know if I can sit in front of (the media) and say that we played really good today,” Roberson said in his opening comments at the postgame news conference. “We played really good in the first half, but if you watched the same game as I did, I thought we got sloppy and lost a little focus in the second half.”
While Roberson made sure his displeasure of the third and fourth quarters were known, he couldn’t have asked for a better showing heading into the locker room.
Prattville Christian’s defense played the biggest role in helping the Panthers carve out a commanding 31-8 halftime advantage that demoralized Tanner (16-16). The Panthers forced 18 turnovers and held the 2011 state champions to only 20 percent shooting from the field (3-of-15). Kelsey Houston was the lone Rattler in double digits with 10.
“We had a lot of things we did not do well as far as execution,” Rattlers coach Larry Green said. “We got ourselves in a huge hole. And against a team as good as they are, it’s just very difficult to dig your way out of that first half.”
PCA performed with a sense of urgency not seen throughout the postseason.
“You just have to play your all,” said sophomore guard Sydney Bell, who had six of her team’s 13 steals. “You don’t have anything to lose, so you might as well play your all on defense.”
Emerson, who scored her 3,000th career point, carried the load once again with 30 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Panthers. The 6-foot-1 Troy signee poured in 12 of those points during an impressive second quarter, a period which frustrated the Rattlers completely.
“Honestly, this was one of the first games I’ve had where I didn’t feel like I had to (vomit),” Emerson said of her not having any early jitters. “Before the game even started, I was having a little confidence for my teammates and myself.”
Roberson wanted more from his superstar.
“We’ve come to expect those types of numbers from here,” Roberson said. “She gets 30 and 11, and I am out there getting on her for missing all those layups. She could have probably had a lot more because she missed a lot of layups she normally makes.”
Roberson believes four quarters like Tuesday’s first half would put PCA in a great position when the buzzer signals the end of Friday’s matchup.
“I thought our first-half performance was good enough to make a state championship game and maybe fight for a state championship,” he said.