The Montgomery Academy girls thrive on pressure defense, creating turnovers that lead to easy baskets. But after facing a team that relied on the same formula to put the Lady Eagles out of the regionals last season, first-year coach Barry Fencher wanted his team a little more prepared for what they’ll face in the Central Regionals this year.
“Actually, that’s our strong suit,” said Fencher, an assistant coach on last year’s team. “We changed up a lot of things, worked on our ball handling with our guards. I don’t look for the same result as last year as far as the turnovers. We’ve done a lot of work over the summer and in the preseason to get our girls ready for that pressure.”
Ready or not, Montgomery Academy will face R.C. Hatch today in the Central Regionals in a rematch of last year’s game. The Lady Bobcats forced 28 turnovers on the way to a 49-45 victory in last year’s rematch, and Fencher believes he’ll see the same game plan from R.C. Hatch in today’s matchup.
“I expect them to be the same as last year,” he said. “They’ll try to pressure the guards up front. They depend on a lot of turnovers, that’s their game.”
Last year’s Montgomery Academy team was hoping to make a third consecutive trip to the state tournament, but R.C. Hatch used a 15-9 run in the third quarter to expand a 21-20 halftime lead and hold off the Lady Eagles by forcing the same type of ball handling mistakes that Montgomery Academy is accustomed to exploiting.
Jade Brooks had 22 points in that meeting but also had nine turnovers. This year’s team, with the addition of Kayla White, is a better ball-handling team that doesn’t rely on any particular player to do all of the scoring.
“We’re playing together as a team,” Fencher said. “We don’t really have a starting five. We have 11 players on our team and on any given night, any of them may step up.
“We know we can always turn to Jade for scoring and Kayla can step up at any time. We run special plays for Rachel (Lee). When she’s hot, we rely on that hot hand. But we’re a team that rides the hot hand, and it’s been real successful for us. A team can’t sit back and say ‘they’re going to take this person out of the game.’
“It also helps in our preparation. When we practice, we really go at it. You’ve got good competition in practice and it rolls over to the game.”
The Montgomery Academy boys missed their opportunity to join the girls in the Central Regional after a stunning upset in overtime by Calhoun in a sub-regional game on Friday.
“I’m proud of the way they played,” Montgomery Academy coach Anthony McCall said. “We did some good things this year but I really thought this team (could advance), especially playing a sub-regional game at home. You win those, but it just wasn’t our night.
“But like I told the players, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, 20-7. That’s not bad. An area championship. There are a lot of memorable moments. But this one is going to hurt for a while.”