Lady Rebels win second consecutive state championship

Published 3:00 pm Friday, February 16, 2024

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Lowndes Academy varsity girls’ basketball took home their second consecutive Alabama Independent School Association (AISA) Class A state championship Feb. 9. 

After defeating Escambia Academy in the Final 4, the Lady Rebels advanced to the state championship where they faced Evangel Christian Academy. The team emerged victorious with a final score of 45-18.

Haley Briggs, varsity girls’ center, said that she is proud of the team and all the challenges they overcame during the season. 

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“Winning the championship back-to-back is a dream come true,” Briggs said. “At the beginning of the year people doubted us being that we were a young team. We came in at Christmas with a losing record. Coach Matt sat us down and we made goals to get back to the state championship game. From then on, we worked hard at practices and gave everything we had during a game. When we got to the championship game Friday we went against a well-coached team. They were ready for us, but we were also ready for them. This team has heart and dedication, and I will forever be grateful for them. We are one team, one family.” 

Among the top scorers for the varsity girls was Briggs, a senior who scored a total of 15 points, followed by Camryn Hess who scored 12 points. The next top scorers were Catie Wallace Self and Abby Lovell who scored 9 and 7 points respectively. 

Matt Marshall, head coach of the Lowndes varsity girls, said that although the schedule was rough this season, it prepared the team in the best way possible.

“The entire month of December we played the teams that made the AA classification above us a total of eleven times and the four teams that were in the final four for the Class AA were eleven of our games, so I really feel like our schedule prepared us,” Marshall said. “It was a pretty tough one and it didn’t always go the way we wanted it to go but it showed us how we needed to improve and the things we needed to work on. Also, getting into the gym a lot in December over Christmas Break is something that really turned the corner for us.” 

The team had a record of 13-6 going into this final game. 

Marshall said that a crucial key to the team’s success this season was their defense.

“Our identity was our defense and what we put most of our focus on was defense. Not that everyone doesn’t do it, but we’re one of the few teams that play a lot of man defense and I feel like we were able to create a lot of pressure this year,” Marshall said. “Another thing that set us apart was balance and scoring. We had five girls score over 100 points this year and I don’t think anybody could look and try to take away one person. We had a lot of balance and if you took away one or two players, we had other people to step up.” 

Along with winning the championship title, three team members were named to the All-Tournament team: Briggs, Catie Wallace Self, and Camryn Hess. 

Briggs is the only senior on the team and was also the leading scorer and leading rebounder of the season playing the center position. Hess was the small forward for the team. Followed by Self who is a freshman and plays as the point guard for the varsity girls. 

Briggs said that she had to step into a leadership role this season and is proud that her hard work paid off. 

“With me being the only senior I had to step up this year and be a leader. My teammates trusted and believed in me to lead them on and off the court. We are a young team and me pushing and encouraging them through practices and games made us have a successful year,” Briggs said. “Making the all-tournament team is always special to me because it makes me realize the work and effort, I put into playing. When a coach picks you for that then you know you accomplished what needed to be done.” 

During the season, the team averaged 38 points a game before Christmas and 61 points a game after Christmas. The team’s defense stayed consistent, and they averaged giving up 18 points the entire season. 

Marshall said that throughout his years of coaching, he has never had a team quite like the team this year.

“I’m fortunate to have coached a lot of championship teams and I don’t know if I have ever had a team progress as fast as this team has progressed,” Marshall said. “I said in November that I felt like we would be way better in January than we were in December and November. They did a great job, and they came in at Christmas understanding what we needed to do to be a better team, they just needed some practice time and some repetition to figure out how we were going to do that. They really bought into each other and bought into me when I coached and seeing them progress the way they did was really fascinating.”