ALBA — On the very first day of practice, Alba-Golden girls basketball coach Brad Gibson knew he had a special group.
After spending nine years as an assistant coach at powerhouse Winnsboro High School, he has seen some pretty good teams.
His prediction came true as the Lady Panthers are still going strong in the playoffs, one win away from the Region II Tournament.
Alba-Golden (27-7) takes on Dallas Life Oak Cliff (29-6) tonight in a Class 2A regional quarterfinal. Tipoff is 6 p.m. at Ford High School in Quinlan. The winner advances to the Region II Tournament Friday and Saturday at Wisdom Gym on the campus of Tarleton State University in Stephenville.
Gibson said this is the first time the Lady Panthers have advanced this far since the early 1980s.
“These girls have been hungry for success from the first day of practice,” the first-year coach said. “They have all been more than willing to buy into the system that I wanted to put in place. They play hard all the time and they have gotten more comfortable and confident as the season has gone on.
“We had three returning players, three freshmen and two that did not play last year that came out. It has been a nice mixture of players and I am very proud of the effort that they have given me. When nobody cares who gets the credit, a lot can be accomplished.”
It was a difficult task just to be one of the teams from District 14-2A to make the playoffs. Perennial power Winnsboro won the league, while A-G was second, followed by Edgewood.
“Yes, Edgewood and Winnsboro are both great teams,” Gibson said. “Edgewood made it to Austin last year and Winnsboro went to the regional finals. This district is one of the toughest in the state and my girls stepped up every time we had to play them. We lost on the road to both of these teams, but we won against both of them at home.”
Although Winnsboro was upset in area play (46-45 by Mount Pleasant Chapel Hill), A-G and Edgewood are still alive in the postseason. The Lady Bulldogs play MPCH at 8 p.m. tonight at Rains High School in Emory.
Macie Arrington, a 5-6 sophomore guard, leads the Lady Panthers in scoring at 17 points per game, while Caitlin Lennon, a 5-6 freshman guard, is next 10 ppg. Arrington has connected on 98 3-pointers.
CeTara Carter, a 6-0 freshman post, and Kaylee Bizzell, a 5-8 freshman post, tops the team in rebounding at six and five boards, respectively.
Michaela Moffett, 5-6 senior guard, and Corlie Lennon, 5-5 junior guard, lead the team in steals (4 per game).
The Lady Panthers have a four-guard starting lineup — Arrington, Corlie Lennon, Caitlin Lennon and Moffett — and a post, Carter.
Others who see significant minutes are Bizzell, 5-7 junior guard Jessika Barnhart and 5-8 senior post Haliee Williams.
Gibson moved up five players for the playoffs — Erin Roberts (freshman), Gracie Peacock (freshman), Tonya Haley (senior), Katie Bowers (freshman) and Brooke Brickey (freshman).
Gibson said the support of the community has been tremendous.
“It’s been a long time since the Alba-Golden girls have made it this far in the basketball playoffs,” he said. “We have had great crowds this year at our home games and the girls won all their games this year in our gym. Friday night in Rains, it was standing room only on Alba’s side (39-24 win over Cooper in area). The girls are very excited to see that many fans come out and support them. We try and put a team on the floor that the community can be proud of.”
PLAYOFF NOTES: The winner of Alba-Golden vs. Dallas Life Oak Cliff will play the winner of the Howe-Brock game at 4 p.m. Friday in Stephenville.