Entering last season’s Class 3A Girls Basketball State Tournament, Pisgah wasn’t the favorite.
But the Eagles left Birmingham with the state title anyway, knocking off top-ranked Lauderdale County 62-59 to win the 3A crown.
This season, Pisgah returns to state with a target on its back thanks to its status as an the favorite to repeat.
Head coach Carey Ellison said Pisgah must block out any such talk.
“Can’t listen to everybody, all the voices, people saying we should win and stuff,” he said. “People don’t think about that the other teams are good, that other teams are going to give their best shot. We’re going to get Prattville Christian’s best, and if we’re fortunate to survive, we’ll get the best from whoever wins the other [semifinal game].”
Pisgah (32-1) plays Prattville Christian (25-8) today at noon in the Class 3A State Tournament semifinals at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex’s Legacy Arena. The winner plays No. 4 Winfield (32-1) or No. 7 Montgomery Academy (29-2) in the 3A state championship game Friday at 12:30 p.m.
Pisgah is playing in the state tournament for the 12th time since the current AHSAA postseason format was introduced in 1994. Pisgah has went to state 11 times during Ellison’s 23-year tenure, winning state championships in 1997, 2003, 2005 and 2018. The program also won state titles in 1981 and 1982.
Prattville Christian is making its first state tournament appearance.
The Panthers advanced to state by upsetting No. 2 T.R. Miller 41-35 in the Southwest Regional final last Wednesday. Prattville Christian outscored T.R. Miller 19-5 in the fourth quarter rally for the victory.
Southwest Regional MVP Ella Jane Connell scored 21 points for the Panthers while Kaitlyn Reyes netted 16. Reyes is the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Pisgah and Prattville Christian have two common opponents: Section and Plainview. Prattville Christian played those schools during a Thanksgiving Tournament in Rainsville and lost to both. Pisgah went 5-0 against those schools, but Ellison shrugged off the attempt to glean anything from the shared foes.
“They seem to be a complete team,” Ellison said. “Section and Plainview played well against them. Prattville Christian had the long travel, and it was November. Teams change, teams evolve.”
Though glad his team advanced, Ellison wasn’t pleased with Pisgah’s performances in its Northeast Regional wins over No. 8 Susan Moore and No. 10 Glencoe.
“I hope we got that out of us,” he said. “We’ve got to get back to playing in some type of rhythm.”