Unfortunately, that’s what happened for the Lady Lions (20-7), who travel to Savannah and face top-seeded Beach (22-3) for the opening round of the Class AAA state playoffs tonight at 5:30. The plus Central coach Jimmy LeBlanc can take away is that his team should be able to give any No. 1 seed a run for its money.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that if our girls play, we’re not a fourth-place team, we’re a first-place team. It should be a good ball game. We’ve seen Beach. I think our strengths are similar,” LeBlanc said. “It all depends on how you can bounce back after two tough losses. You can either be ready for it to be over with or you can be a little bit ticked off and ready to prove yourselves and that the 20-5 regular-season record is not a farce.”
As for the more than four-and-a-half-hour bus ride, the goal is to make sure that doesn’t distract from the game.
“I think the trip is only a factor if you allow it to be a factor. We’re trying to put a schedule together for [today] that is going to allow the kids to not let it be a factor,” LeBlanc said. “We’re probably going to line this up so we can get a little time [today], at least in one location on the way down, to get in the gym a little bit, too.”
Monday’s practice was an important one.
It was a chance to put the weekend and the region tournament behind them and refocus on a new goal. LeBlanc said the team would also watch a little film on Beach to get familiar with it, but would mostly focus on things it needs to do to get better.
Beach comes into the state playoffs after going undefeated in 17 Region 1-AAA games and is currently riding a 14-game winning streak. The strength of the two teams will both be the inside game, with four players around 6-foot. The Lady Bulldogs are led inside by 5-foot-11 Jada Young, who averages 12.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, and 6-foot Ty’Nika Johnson’s 7.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
“[Monday], we’re going to work on some zone looks to really try to take that away. Callaway did an excellent job of that against us Friday night and we did not shoot the ball well at all,” LeBlanc said. “It’s just going to be a matter of finding the right scheme to neutralize their strengths, and I think our guards have seen guards along the same lines as theirs. I like our guards.”
Now the Lady Lions are refocused and ready to get back on track.
“The disappointment should be over. Now it’s at the point we should be looking forward. Now it’s back to our style of basketball and doing what we can do. That’s the message [Monday],” LeBlanc said.