In the Skyline gymnasium, written on a dry-erase board, has been a number that’s changed daily.
It was countdown to the final day of the season for Class 1A basketball teams — the state championship game.
“We see it everyday,” said Skyline junior forward Bailee Usrey.
That countdown is at zero now, and Skyline has accomplished half its mission — playing on the final day of the season. The opportunity to complete the other half of the mission comes this evening.
No. 3-ranked Skyline (29-5) battles No. 4 Phillips (24-10) in the Class 1A Girls Basketball State Tournament Championship Game today at 4 p.m. at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex’s Legacy Arena.
It’s the first state championship game appearance for Skyline, no doubt a huge day for the program but also the school and community as well, said head coach Ronnie McCarver.
“Never had a chance to play in the state [championship game], so it’s pretty big,” he said.
Meanwhile, it’s the second straight Class 1A state championship game appearance for Phillips, which is located in Bear Creek near Russellville. The Bears lost 52-38 to Spring Garden in last year’s state finals.
While Skyline reached this year’s Class 1A title game with a 58-36 rout of St. Luke’s , Northwest Regional champion Phillips got there by defeating Westminster-Oak Mountain 66-48.
Misty Dishner scored a game-high 28 points — she made 17 of the Bears’ 33-made free throws (41 attempts in Phillips’ semifinal victory — while fellow guard Gracie Hallman scored 10 points and 6-foot-1 forward Alicyn McCollum had a double-double of 16 points and 16 rebounds.
“The big girl inside, McCollom, we’ll have to do a really good job guarding her,” McCarver said, “and they’ve got those two guards we’ve got to do a really good job on.”
McCarver said the Bears will employ a full-court press that falls back into a zone defense.
“We’ll have to shoot the ball well and handle the press pretty well,” he said.
McCarver has liked Skyline’s focus this postseason and doesn’t expect it to change in today’s state title game.
“They just show up and play,” he said. “I think they’re ready. It’s not different than any other game the way they’re looking at it. Business as usual. We’re just going to show up and play and hope it turns out the right way.”