NOTEBOOK: Lady Falcons’ basketball goal is a return to prominence

Toborsha Holley leads the Central Lady Falcons with an 18.5-point scoring average. (Photo by Michelle Lepianka Carter)

TUSCALOOSA | After traveling across the state throughout the summer, the Central High School girls basketball team started the new season with seven wins and no losses.

Second-year coach Michael Rivers took the Lady Falcons to camps in Gulf Shores and Selma and at Samford University. The time together enabled his players to bond, and they were able to participate in 17 games.

"One of my big fundamental beliefs is that if you put in the time in the summer it allows you to be a better team in the winter," Rivers said. "We expected to be 7-0, based on what we had coming back and some new individuals coming into the program. The kids have a better understanding of what we’re trying to teach. Our No. 1 goal this year was to get ranked and make the name a known commodity like it used to be."

Rivers has his own ideas of how he wants a game to go, but he believes the Lady Falcons are flexible enough to adjust to any situation.

"I prefer to play an up-tempo style, but we can go half-court if we need to," said Rivers, whose team is averaging 68 points per game. "We would prefer not to allow our opponent to get the ball across half-court. We want to attack before they get it across and try to make a quick steal and score a quick basket. We let our defense dictate what’s going to happen offensively."

Toborsha Holley, a 5-foot-5 senior, can play at point guard or shooting guard. Rivers said Holley leads the team with an 18.5-point scoring average.

"She is deadly from 3-point range and has also figured out a way to go inside," Rivers said. "She used to be reluctant about that, but she knows that getting fouled is just as important as hitting a 3. She leads by example. She’s one of the hardest workers at practice."

Lawanda Maddix, a 5-9 junior who was a reserve last season, plays on the wing and averages about 14 points per game.

"She’s my slasher," Rivers said. "She’s really blessed with athletic ability. She’s a good 3-point shooter, but I’d say her best attributes are rebounding and driving to the basket. She can finish with her right or left hand easily."

Sophomore Jerlissa Matthews is a returning starter at guard. Rivers said Matthews is averaging 13 points and between four and five assists per game.

Rivers said his team is approaching full strength now that 6-2 sophomore Shawntayla Harris is back from a minor knee injury.

"She’s a true center at the high-school level," Rivers said. "She has an awesome jump-hook and can shoot the midrange jumper."

Junior forward D’Leisha Dent is a returning starter who leads the team in rebounding (13.3).

"She gives us energy," Rivers said. "She’s a rebounding machine and an inside threat in the low post."

Angelica Weatherspoon, a senior point guard, tore a knee ligament in last season’s area tournament.

"I’d say she’s about 90 percent," Rivers said. "Her passing is undeniably the best on the team. She plays with ultimate desire. She comes in and steadies the floor for us when things get helter-skelter out there."

Junior Meagan Prude and freshman Jada Prewitt give Central depth at guard. Rivers said Arbrisha Armstrong, a 5-10 forward, leads the team in blocked shots.

Tornadoes turn to basketball

Patrick Plott and his Pickens County athletes missed a chance to play for the AHSAA Class 1A football title. Marion County blocked a field-goal try and defeated the Tornadoes 42-41 in the semifinal round.

Plott welcomed his players to the first basketball practice Monday. He said 12 of the 14 played football.

Pickens County, which won the Class 1A basketball title last season, opens with a home game tonight against Hubbertville.

"They understand that we still have a chance to win a championship," Plott said. "I didn’t have to say a whole lot to them. They got themselves focused. During the breaks some of them mentioned something about the game on Friday."

Plott believes he has enough athletes to play a suffocating style of defense and convert turnovers into easy layups.

"I think we have a chance to be pretty good. It’s going to take a lot of hard work," Plott said.

Bobby Bradford didn’t play football, but he is a returning starter at guard. Devonte Simon, the quarterback, will play at point guard. Terrien Steele, a 6-3 defensive lineman, will play at center. Jermarcus Brown, the football team’s leading rusher, will be a guard along with Darius Jones, a wide receiver. Chris Hill, a linebacker, will play at forward.

Expectations still high for Greensboro

When Marty Everett returned to coaching, he didn’t have to revive a broken program. The Greensboro boys basketball team won the AHSAA Class 3A championship in 2011 with Earlando Courtney as the coach. Craig Williams coached the Raiders to a second straight title last season.

Everett, an assistant principal at Greene County High School during the 2011-12 school year, said Williams took an administrative job at Central.

"I really believe God blessed me with a wonderful situation," Everett said. "I didn’t look at it as pressure. My expectation is to go back and get another one. I don’t want us to accept anything less than that. I expect everybody to empty their bucket for as long as they are on the floor, from the first player to the last player."

Everett, 36, coached in Meridian, Miss., before moving on to Livingston, which had won only four games the season before he arrived. Everett led the Cougars to 18 victories. Livingston and Sumter County were closed when the new Sumter Central High School was built. Jazmin Mitchell, who had been at Sumter County, got the job coaching the Sumter Central boys.

Greensboro has won three straight since opening with a loss to Paul W. Bryant, which Everett described as a talented team.

Key players returning from the 2012 championship team include point guard Donald King, Kavoris Owens and Jimmie Taylor, a 6-9 senior center who has signed with the University of Alabama.

"Donald is a really good offensive player," Everett said. "He has bought into what we’re trying to do defensively. Jimmie has never put up the big numbers offensively. I know what he’s meant to the team defensively. We’ve tried to hone in on his post moves from a pull-up jump shot to a sweeping hook. Those are things he’ll need to do once he starts playing Division I basketball.

"Kavoris is a tough kid. He’s the on-the-ball person in our press. He may not get a steal, but he can alter the play. He can hit the 10- to 15-foot jump shot and get the ball to the basket, and he’s one of our really good defenders."

Johnson, Gartman earn AISA honors

Robert Johnson, who coached Tuscaloosa Academy to the school’s first football championship, has been named the Class AAA Coach of the Year by the AISA. Pickens Academy’s John Gartman earned the honor in Class A.

Johnson’s Knights (13-0) won the championship by beating Lee-Scott Academy 27-26 on Nov. 16 at Troy University. Jonathan Plott threw a touchdown pass to Parker Farley, and Jaevon Walton ran for two scores. Terrell Bush scored on a fumble return. Kyle Andrews blocked an extra-point try after Lee-Scott Academy’s last touchdown, and J.D. Diaz made an interception to halt the Warriors’ last possession.

Gartman coached Pickens Academy to a 10-3 record. The Pirates advanced to the Class A championship game before losing to Restoration Academy 48-13.

Johnson was a coach for the East team in the AISA All-Star Game, which was held last Friday in Prattville. Gartman was a coach for the West.

The East won 30-13. Joel Pratt of Pickens Academy was the West’s most outstanding defensive back. Hunter Booth of Pickens Academy was chosen as the West’s most outstanding offensive lineman. Booth received an AISA All-Star football scholarship. Elisabeth Hankins of Pickens Academy received an AISA All-Star cheerleader scholarship.


Reach Andrew Carroll at or at 205-722-0223.