By JD McCarthy for the Opelika Observer
Following one of their best seasons in recent years, the Smiths Station Panthers will do something they have not done in nearly 20 years: host an area game.
Smiths Station (18-2, 3-1) will host Central Phenix City in a Region 4A-7A showdown Wednesday at 6 p.m. CST.
The season has been an impressive turnaround for the Panthers, who went 9-16 a season ago and have battled adversity throughout the preparation for the season. They were unable to have many practices during the summer due to concerns about COVID and had to quarantine twice during the season.
Despite the struggles coming into the season, the Panthers will have a chance to accomplish the goal of winning 20 games that head coach Steven Davis set before the season. Reminder: the goal was set when they were going to play 30 games, not 20.
Now, the Panthers are playing some of their best basketball just ahead of the postseason, closing their regular season with dominant wins over Central,73-46, and Beauregard, 65-32, last week.
“Heading into the postseason you want to be clicking on all cylinders,” Davis said. “And that definitely made me feel like we are clicking on all cylinders and going in the right direction heading into the postseason.”
The Panthers are a defensive team, and they showed that last week, racking up 45 steals in the two games.
They certainty had plenty of offense too, as Zay Madden scored a team-high 21 points and snagged seven rebounds against Central. Dre Weathers had the most efficient night of anyone, scoring 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting and recording six steals.
The two benefited from some great passes from Donovan Pearman, who, despite his shooting struggles, finished with 15 assists and seven rebounds.
The Panthers had a more balanced scoring attack against Beauregard, with Trevon Taylor and Ahmari Peabody leading the team with 10 points apiece. Peabody also pulled down nine rebounds. This game, it was Devyn Pearman who led the way defensively, forcing eight of the Panthers 27 steals.
“We are a defensive team, and we want to make you turn the ball over, but balance is very important,” Davis said. “Defense wins you games, but offense puts you in place to win the games.”
Now that the regular season is complete, the Panthers are focused on their matchup with Central, which will be the third time they play this season. Despite winning the first two games, 73-46 and 57-48, Davis expects it to be a tough game.
“It’s a rivalry game, they are going to make adjustments from the last game and so are we,” he said. “It means so much to me,” Davis said of the success. “I’m extremely happy, I’m extremely satisfied and I’m really happy for the kids.”
The No. 3 seed in Region 4A-7A Smiths Station Varsity Girls were in action Tuesday night in a first-round playoff matchup against Central. Results were not available at press.