The Lady Panthers “Find a Way” to Win State Basketball Title
#FindAWay – a hashtag found on almost every Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter post about PCA’s varsity girls basketball team during and after regular season play.
Their post-season play began with decisive victories against Beulah and Slocomb before facing off against in-town rival Montgomery Academy in the Elite Eight. Five times this season the Lady Panthers had been pushed back by the Eagles, but, despite trailing during the third and fourth quarter, our ladies found a way and defeated the Eagles 57-56, earning a spot in the Final Four for only the third time in school history.
Both Jason Roberson and Jim Graham, head coach and an assistant coach respectively, agreed that defeating the number one ranked team in the area during state play was a highlight of their season. Roberson also added that he enjoys each “moment with this team (everyday). They are just so much fun to coach and be around; everyday is a great day!”
On and off the court, the varsity team found a way to build each other up and improve with each second spent playing. “They truly love each other; encourage each other; want the best for each other! They never quit, accept coaching, and do their very best to apply it!” Roberson noted.
Last Monday, the Lady Panthers faced off against 2nd ranked Susan Moore High School. Led by high scorers Ella Jane Connell and Hannah Jones, the Panthers took the early lead and never looked back, handily defeating Suan Moore 70-56. Both coaches again expressed amazement and admiration for the team, this time as they traveled for only the second time in school history to the state championship game. Throughout all the challenges this season brought, from COVID-19 restrictions to injuries and quarantines, Roberson could only speak highly of the Lady Panthers, saying that “[they] have ladies on our team with extremely high character who are super competitive who are willing to sacrifice for the good of the team. For these reasons, they were able to overcome any adversity that came our way this season.”
The stadium on Friday was packed with green and white, with both fans from PCA and competitor Sylvania High School flocking to Birmingham in support of their team. The Lady Panthers weren’t intimidated by the challenge or the pressure, and falling behind only once in the first quarter, fought tooth and nail to keep a lead on Sylvania. Trading shot after shot, the Panthers held their lead on the Rams, and after a nail-biting fourth quarter, defeated Sylvania 62-55, winning the 3A Girls State Basketball Championship for the first time in school history! CoCo Thomas led with 25 points, 17 rebounds, and four blocks. Hannah Jones added 16 points, 11 rebounds, and seven blocks. Avery Rogers scored eight points. Ella Jane Connell added six points, six assists, and five rebounds, and MaKenna Simpson scored five points.
The stands blew up, the sounds of cheers and applause deafening fans in the vicinity as the final buzzer sounded, and continued as accolades were laid upon the team, including the nominations the All-Tournament Team for Hannah Jones and Ella Jane Connell, and the crowning achievement of the 3A Most Valuable Player being awarded to our very own Hannah Jones.
What a phenomenal finish to one of the most challenging years the basketball team has faced. Congratulations, ladies! We can’t wait to cheer you on next season and beyond!
By: Jenna Stilling ’21