The Pisgah girls basketball team is back where most observers expected it to be.
The No. 1-ranked Eagles plays in the Class 3A state championship game for the third straight year and fourth time in five seasons, and enter Friday’s state finals matchup with No. 7 Montgomery Academy with an opportunity to repeat as state champions.
Despite all the predictions and possibilities this team had, Pisgah head coach Carey Ellison said the players have stayed in the moment this season.
“They’ve done a really good job of not looking ahead, not looking at our record or looking at other things,” Ellison said. “I think, to them it’s just about winning state championship. It’s a chance to win another one. I probably see the back-to-back part of it more than them because I’ve had a couple opportunities before and they slipped away. But the girls, to them it’s just a chance to win another one, get another ring, get their name on another banner. I think the game is motivation in itself.”
Pisgah (33-1) and Montgomery Academy (29-2) square off Friday at 12:30 p.m. at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex’s Legacy Arena.
The Eagles reached the finals with a 63-47 semifinal win over Prattville Christian while Montgomery Academy advanced with a 48-41 win over No.2 Winfield.
Montgomery Academy, no stranger to the state tournament, is making its second state finals appearance in four seasons.
Pisgah said Montgomery Academy plays a similar style to that of Prattville Christian, which split its season series with Montgomery Academy.
“Those two are very similar in style, but Montgomery Academy is probably not as deliberate [on offense] in getting it to two players. They get more people involved,” Ellison said. “They like to play inside-out. [Leighton] Robertson likes to get to the rim. They’ve got two real good post players and a really good guard tandem. There will a big emphasis on trying to shut them down.”
Robertson, a 5-foot-7 sophomore guard, posted a game-high 26 points to go with seven steals and six rebounds for Montgomery Academy in its state semifinal victory. Sophomore guard Gabriella Ramirez was 3-of-8 from the 3-point arc and closed with nine points while 5-10 senior forward Margaret Head had five points and seven rebounds.
Ellison said getting the game played at Pisgah’s preferred pace would be a big factor in the game.
“We’ve got to keep the game sped up instead of slowed down,” he said, “so we’re playing to one of our strengths instead of theirs.”