While writing the game story in the press room last week after Pisgah defeated Lauderdale County 62-59 in the Class 3A Girls Basketball state championship game, I remember thinking how close the Eagles were to perfection when I typed their final record in the story: 31-1.
Anyone who knows PHS coach Carey Ellison knows he never wants to lose. But looking back at Pisgah’s 53-49 loss to Oliver Springs (Tennessee) during The Winterfest Shootout in the Smokey Mountains in December, Ellison said his team may not have won a state title without it.
Oliver Springs constantly changed defenses and press breaks, and that, Ellison said, revealed a Pisgah weakness.
"We were not communicating," he said. "We'd have three players doing one thing and two others doing something different. They'd switch defenses and we'd be out of sorts…we'd be trying to run two different presses. The next day we went to work on communicating.”
When I contacted Oliver Springs head coach Michelle Christopher about that game, Christopher was happy to hear that Pisgah won a state title.
“You could tell very quickly they were a good team and we’re a traditionally strong team and well coached. We’ve gone to Destin and Fort Walton, Florida for tournaments and played a lot of Alabama schools. [Pisgah] was by far the best Alabama team we’ve played.”
Oliver Springs, which would be likely be a Class 4A school in Alabama, had an up-and-down season and finished 13-17. It was uncharacteristic season for Christopher, who has led her alma mater to six state tournament appearances in 11 seasons as head coach.
“That was one of the games we played like we were capable of,” Christopher said. “We never followed up on [Pisgah] after that game, so it’s really interesting to know they won [a state championship].”
So what went down as solid win for Oliver Springs turned out to be a beneficial setback for Pisgah.
“We got better at [communication],” Ellison said. “I think the biggest thing is we didn't waste the opportunity to learn from [the loss].”