Hephzibah's girls basketball team lost to Glenn Hills three times this season. Here's a quick quiz.
Less than 24 hours before they take on the Lady Spartans for the Georgia Class AAAA state title, what were the Lady Rebels' feeling at Friday's practice?
B. Hungry for revenge
C. Ready to engage in a trash-talking war
D. None of the above.
The answer is D.
Instead, Hephzibah coach Wendell Lofton said his team won't be entranced by Glenn Hills. The Lady Rebels will just look at the game as a regular-season matchup.
"Our girls are not awed by them," said Lofton, whose team will take the court at 1:45 p.m. at the Macon Centreplex. "The two teams know each other well, and they play AAU ball together. Neither team will be intimidated by the other. It's just a normal fight."
Except hardly anybody expected the Lady Rebels to be in the championship game They didn't win the Region 3-AAAA title - that went to the Lady Spartans - and few observers thought they would get by No. 3 Columbus in the quarterfinals and No. 1 South Cobb in the semifinals.
Sophomore point guard Chantal Murray is among the Hephzibah believers.
"We expected to go this far," she said. "And if we can beat the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the state, we should be able to beat Glenn Hills. We should go out there and win."
To do so, Hephzibah (26-5) will have to limit Glenn Hills' strong outside shooting, including Lady Spartans Marian Whitfield and Tyhiesha Smith. If the Lady Rebels can slow down the duo and control the paint like they did against South Cobb, Lofton could be looking at his program's first state title.
Hephzibah also has a new secret weapon: The Lady Rebels finally are in good physical condition.
"Every time we lost to them, they picked us off in the fourth quarter," Lofton said. "I don't think we were in the shape then that we're in now. We should have been in good shape, but Coach Lofton didn't have his team ready."
Murray agrees the Lady Rebels are ready.
"We've been working hard on getting in good shape," Murray said. "This is the state championship, and I think we want it more than they do. We've worked hard to get here."
Perhaps, but what makes the Lady Rebels think they can beat a team they've gone 0-3 against this season?
Senior forward Tamara Gilyard provided the answer.
"We're a scrappy team," Gilyard said. "We play hard defense, and we don't ever give up. That's why we're here."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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