BY WIL CREWS
Winners of six out of its last 10 games, the attitude of the Smiths Station girls’ basketball team has begun a metamorphosis for the better.
“Our overall attitude of the team [has changed],” said Smiths Station girls’ basketball coach Kelvin Roberts. “Before, they would get down on themselves, and if the game wasn’t going their way, they would panic or just give up. Whereas now they are showing way more fight.”
The Panthers currently sit at 7-9 on the season, and although the team just posted back-to-back loses to region foes Central Phenix City and Auburn, their coach is noticing positive developments on the court.
“They are beginning to trust each other on the court more,” Roberts said. “Instead of just spurts, we started to see that well ‘I don’t have to try and do it by myself’ l and trust the strategy that has been laid out for us. We can execute and we have begun to see positive dividends and its started to click for us. Now it’s just trying to remain consistent.”
Based on the Panther’s recent history — having failed to win the area championship since 2008 — remaining consistent looks to be a lofty challenge.
Roberts said he has a number of girls who he has looked to, and will continue to look to, as players who can provide steady hands to help guide the team.
“[Who the leadership comes from], it’s kind of been back and forth,” Roberts said. “Some games I’ll get more production and leadership from Khamyri Jordan. Other games it will be Cassidy Pittman or Latasha Judkins. As of late, I’m getting more leadership and production from Jatayah Bryant.”
With only six more regular season games on the docket before postseason play begins, the Panthers will have to be strong physically and mentally to change the trends of recent history.
“We want to take the lessons learned from the first half of the season,” Roberts said. “It was all leading toward this point and playing these important area games … getting over that mental hump. The first thing I want to do is to get them to realize that you can play this game against [whoever]. They are beatable and we are capable of doing that. We just have to get over that mental hump.”
The Panthers are averaging just over 34 points per game this season, while allowing nearly 40. Compare that to both Auburn and Central, which average over 50 points per contest and allow 38 and 41 points per game, respectively, and there is some clear ground to make up for Smiths Station.
Still, however, Roberts believes his team has what it takes to compete in the region and reach the goal of postseason play. What it will come down to, as Roberts put it, is one simple word: execution.
“[The key is] being able to execute better,” Roberts said. “We will have these mental lapses, where we turn the ball over or miss rotation on defense. It’s not that we haven’t practiced for this situation, it’s just when we are in the game, it may be one or two people, they aren’t on their best game and it can cost us as a team. It’s just trying to keep us consistent and mentally ready for these tough games.”