Last season in the regional semifinals, the Brewbaker Tech girls their eyes on back-to-back state titles until UMS-Wright sent the Rams packing.
Brew Tech’s star player, Ashley Asouzu, was on the bench, rehabbing from knee surgery, a procedure necessitated by a cracked growth plate in her left knee.
This season, the Rams are back in the Class 4A South Regional semifinals, this time against Clarke County. And they are back at full strength.
“I feel like I have something to prove,” Asouzu said. “I need to show, after all the rehab, what a better player I have become.”
Asouzu said missing out last year and making one last run as a senior has motivated her to raise her performance.
Her coach, Cynthia Thompson, has noticed.
“I see a big difference between last year and this year,” Thompson said. “She’s always in the gym, either going to the YMCA or staying after practice. She’s always working extra hard so that she doesn’t miss out on that championship her senior year.”
Asouzu said the pain from last year — from sitting out and from the knee — has made her a better player. She’s averaging 20 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two blocks this season.
“The surgery was a big success,” Asouzu said. “I’m playing harder, I’ve gotten quicker and I’m more aggressive. And the rehab taught me how to push through when times get tough.”
Two years removed from a state title, and with a healthy Asouzu, the Rams are expected to advance to the state tournament. Thompson said no one expects more than her players.
“There’s always pressure on us getting further than we got last year and to make it to the championship game,” Thompson said. “There’s always pressure, but with these girls, they’re focused and making sure they play as a team. What they do, they do for themselves and for nobody else.”
The No. 4 Rams (22-1) take their first step toward returning to the title game against No. 3 Clarke County (26-4) at 9 a.m. today in Dothan.
“I know they’re a very aggressive team and like to attack the basket,” Asouzu said. “But so are we, so it should be close.”
If the Rams win, they’ll advance to play the winner between St. James and UMS-Wright. Asouzu said she wouldn’t mind exacting revenge against UMS-Wright, the team that cut the Rams’ season short last year.
“What they saw last year, that’s the past,” Asouzu said. “They’re dealing with a whole new team.”