The standards for girls Class 6A basketball always are pretty high in north Alabama. Teams are measured by the success they have against the Sparkmans, Bob Joneses and Hoovers of the classification.
Hold your own against those teams, and a coach knows he has an elite program. It’s also the level that all teams are trying to reach.
Austin High’s Bruce Hamilton is well aware of those facts. On Wednesday morning at the Northwest Regional at Wallace State-Hanceville, he watched his team go head-to-head against Hoover. Buoyed by last week’s victory over Bob Jones, Hamilton hoped the Black Bears had another surprise in store for the Bucs.
It wasn’t to be, though. Hoover steadily pulled away from the Black Bears en route to a 59-35 victory. The loss ended the season for Austin, but while Hamilton watched Hoover he also saw what he hopes the Black Bears can become: a polished, veteran team.
On Wednesday, Hoover started five seniors, and their veteran presence was evident even during the early portion of the game when they were struggling to score. The Bucs looked like a confident, mature team.
Hamilton countered in his starting lineup with seniors Takisha Jordan and Meagan Hamilton along with sophomore Aaliyah Rice and freshmen Tyra Johnson and Katie Speegle. Hamilton’s bench also consisted of five other sophomores and freshmen, and two juniors.
With such a mix of players, is it any wonder Hamilton is excited about the next few years? Austin won 23 games this year with the blend of youngsters and veterans, and he’s already excited for next season.
The term “learning experience” often is overused by coaches and fans to explain away losses. For Austin’s young players, it’s an appropriate phrase. Johnson, Speegle and Rice will get more chances to prove themselves against those elite teams that dot north Alabama’s countryside.
Freshman post player Katie Speegle said as much in the postgame Wednesday.
“We need to get stronger as a team and get better from here on because this is a start for us,” Speegle said. “It’s going to lead up to something good at the end.”
Hamilton said Hoover’s experience showed in a big game and he is confident the Black Bears can become a similar team as it gains experience.
“Hopefully we can draw from this experience,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got to get better in the offseason and in the summer. We have to be hungry to get back down here.”
Speegle is confident Austin girls basketball is on the rise.
“I think we were nervous just because of the name “Hoover,” but when we got out there we kind of loosened up,” she said. “I think we are so close to being as good as Hoover and Sparkman. We just need that little extra push. We’re going to get there.”
Contact Gregg Dewalt at 256-740-5748 or email@example.com. Follow @greggdewalt on Twitter.
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