But upon moving up to Class AA this year, the Lady Blue Devil coach is hopeful of carrying that annual hoops tradition up a level, while also making a run in the postseason with five returning starters leading the way in 2012-13.
“We want to keep the streak going, but this bunch is stubborn. I don’t know that they’ll settle for just a playoff appearance. They want to go deeper. We’ve had some good results from other sports teams. Our softball team had a great season and went to the final four. Our cross country team finished 10th and our cheerleading team finished fourth. So they’ve proved to us that it can be done,” Matthews said. “This bunch is hungry. They’re not listening to, ‘Ah, it’s double-A.’ It’s just go as far as you can. They’re hungry and they want to see how far they can go.”
Bremen opened the year earlier than usual, participating in the Darlington Thanksgiving Tournament last weekend and finishing 2-1, defeating Armuchee and Stone Mountain, while dropping a tight, 40-35 decision to Calhoun.
Matthews wanted to face some tough competition right from the get-go this year, hoping to see some things her veteran squad needs to work on and also figure out what it is doing well right now.
“This is the earliest we’ve ever started. When you’re used to having 30 practices in a season before you play — because we usually don’t start until the first of December — so you go from that to having 12 practices and having to start Nov. 19 instead of Dec. 5 or 6th, it’s a big difference,” Matthews said.
Bremen returns its top scorer in senior shooting guard Jordan Hill (16.7 ppg, 3.9 steals), along with senior twins Jamia (8.2 ppg, 4.2 spg, 3.5 apg) and Kalia Johnson (6.9 ppg, 2.5 spg, 3.5 apg), in the backcourt, while senior center Kayleigh Medlin (8.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg) brings a veteran presence in the post. Matthews also returns senior starter Kayla Chapman at forward, making for a starting cast that includes five seniors, with four seniors and three juniors serving as options off the bench.
One of the biggest things Matthews has tried to orchestrate over the past few years is getting Hill more offensive help. The Lady Blue Devil coach said the Johnson twins really emerged into more prominent scoring roles over the summer, while she also hopes to get Medlin more involved offensively this year.
“It’s coming along. We’re trying to get some people some confidence. You know, we’ve got the twins, Jamia and Kalia, guards that we’re starting to rely on a good bit to bring us some scoring. They’re starting to respond, they’re starting to attack the basket. They did real well in the second half of the Armuchee game last Tuesday. They started attacking the rim and got some good scoring opportunities there,” Matthews said.
Along with a new classification, the Lady Blue Devils also move into Region 5 this year, where they will be joined in 5B-AA by local rivals Bowdon, Temple and Heard County. The other sub-region features schools from the Columbus area — Kendrick, Spencer, Manchester, Jordan and Chattahoochee County.
“I haven’t had a chance to watch all the teams in the region. We played Heard County this summer in a camp. Of course, we know they won the region [last year] and are tough competition. We got to see Kendrick play in the same camp. We didn’t have the opportunity to play them, but they’re just very athletic. We’ve got to be able to handle the athleticism and play fundamental basketball,” Matthews said.