Game Preview: Lady Panthers preparing for matchup against storied program

Published 11:36 am Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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The Lady Panthers will hit the road this Friday to travel to Jacksonville State to face off in the 2A Northeast regional against a storied Pisgah program. 

Lanett advanced to the regional game after defeating Fyffe in the sub-regionals on Friday. The Panthers are now set to face a team that they have a long history with. 

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Before last season, Pisgah had won five straight state championships. Lanett ended that run with a 69-65 win in the Northeast regional last season. In 2022, the Panthers fell at the hands of the Eagles in the 2A semifinals. 

The matchup on Friday, set to tip at 11:30 ET, will be a lot like last season with the two teams replacing very few seniors. 

“Last year, it was a great game,” Lanett coach Charlie Williams said. “It’s primarily the same teams except for the two or three that he (Carey Ellison) graduated and the four that I graduated. I was watching a film today, and I was watching us against them. It’s the same exact players.” 

The matchup features some of the most successful girls basketball coaches in the state of Alabama. Pisgah head coach Carey Ellison has won eight state championships during his 28 seasons at the helm. Williams has led the Panthers to four semifinal appearances, but he is still looking for the elusive state championship. 

“Coach Ellison does a great job,” Williams said. “When it comes to girls basketball in 2A, he’s what you call one of the godfathers.” 

The matchup between Lanett and Pisgah will be one of differing philosophies. The Eagles’ offense relies heavily on spacing and the ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor. 

“They can shoot the basketball,” Williams said. “You just have to defend without fouling and just be sound. Shooters shoot. They’re not going to stop shooting. If they’re making a lot of them or if they’re missing a lot of them, they’re not going to stop shooting. They’re just so confident in their system and things that they do.” 

The Panthers on the other hand hang their hats on the defensive side, and Lanett’s offense is largely focused on fastbreak opportunities and getting shots closer to the basket. Williams expects his team to have the advantage in speed, athleticism and on the defensive end. 

In practice this week, the Panthers are largely focused on improving their communication and assignments on the defensive end. 

“Recognizing where the shooters are,” Williams said about the team’s focus. “Their movement and the offense are so crisp and so fluid. It’s hard to just say that you’ve got one person. There’s a lot of communication that goes into it.” 

While some things on the defensive end will be different this week, Williams does not want to change too much about how his team functions. 

Williams is focused on continuing to do the things that have gotten the Lady Panthers to this point and staying true to their identity on the hardwood. 

“Just don’t hurt yourself,” Williams said. “So many teams get focused on the other team, and they forget about fixing things they still have to fix about themselves. We still have to fix ourselves.
“We still have to be Lanett. Teams try so hard worrying about what the other team is going to do, they forget who they are. They stop themselves.” 

The Panthers will travel to face off against Pisgah in the Northeast Regional on Friday at 11:30 ET at Pete Matthews Coliseum on the campus of Jacksonville State University.