AUBURN –– Auburn High girls basketball standout Syriah Daniels is set to end her illustrious career with the Tigers, but teammates have their eyes on one final playoff run to send her off appropriately.
The senior is committed to play for Auburn University next season, but she is the main piece of this Auburn squad that finished the season at 22-4 and tied with Central for first in the region. She leads the team with 23 points per game this season, and she reached 2,000 career points at Auburn High on Jan. 23 against Smith Station.
The Auburn High girls basketball team has never won a state championship, but with Daniels leading the way, head coach Courtney Pritchett thinks this team could be the one to change that. They will host the region tournament as the No. 1 seed beginning this Friday.
“I think we have all the pieces that are needed to make the state tournament,” Pritchett said. “We’re a better team than we were last year; we’re getting more production from different places. We came into the season knowing we would get strong offensive production from a few people, but we found out that we have five or six players who can score double figures in any given game.”
The offense revolves around Daniels, but she has the luxury of having junior sharpshooters Brooke Hallman and Daley Alsobrook to combat her threat to drive to the basket. Hallman is second on the team with 16.5 points a game, and Alsobrook follows with 9.5 points a game and leads the team shooting 49% on 3-pointers.
The trio of guards compliment each other on defense as well. Daniels leads the way with four steals per contest, followed by Hallman with three and Alsobrook with 2.7.
The team has plenty of producers, but it also has the leadership of three seniors. Along with Daniels, Auburn looks to Alethia Coppenger and Jonah Woods to stay focused in tough circumstances.
“They’re a major part of the foundation and growth of who we are as a team,” Pritchett said. “That means a ton because for years to come, the success that we’ve had is a tribute to the kids who have been in the program the longest. The foundation that they set layers.”
Although the team is confident in its leadership and recognizes its talent, the team is familiar with a disappointing ending. Despite winning the 7A Area 4 title the previous two seasons, it did not make it past the Round of 32 either year. The Tigers lost in the Regional Semifinals to Daphne last year.
This season, Auburn got a wake-up call when it opened area play with a loss at home to Central, but it responded by winning the last six games of the season – including a win at Central two weeks later. Auburn won five straight area games before ending the season with a lopsided victory over Loachapoka on Tuesday.
Pritchett knows his team has state championship potential, but he wants them to remember the disappointment of those early exits. The leaders and veterans on the team, whether they play key minutes or not, have the task of reminding the team the dangers of forgetting the implications of each playoff game – regardless of the opponent.
“We’re confident, but never too confident,” Pritchett said. “We’re all kind of cautious about making sure we’re performing our best every time out and understanding that the later you get in the season, the more weight a single loss carries because it can end your season. The girls understand that and are responding by playing with intensity.”
Since Monday’s coin toss went in Auburn’s favor in the tie breaker with Central, the Tigers will host the area tournament. They will face No. 4 seed Opelika on Friday at 6:30 p.m. to begin their quest to their first state championship in program history, looking to put the exclamation point on Daniels’ legacy at Auburn High.