Dadeville looks to defend home court in area tourney

Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook

Dadeville’s PJ Eason (34) streaks down the court against Notasulga on Thursday night.

This time a year ago, Dadeville’s boys and girls basketball teams were on very different tracks. The Tiger boys were the obvious favorite to win their area championship, while the girls were expected to lose quickly and easily.

Neither of those two things happened, as Dadeville was ousted by Tallassee in the boys championship last season on its home floor and the Tiger girls made a run at things and finished second in the area to advance to the sub-regional.

Fast forward a year, and now the two have more similar expectations.

In their first year returning to Class 3A, both Dadeville squads went 5-1 in area competition and earned the right to host the Area 7 tournaments, which begin tonight. On the boys side, they’ll be using last year’s bitter taste as extra motivation to get a tournament win.

“We aren’t going to let this one slip away,” Dadeville coach Jesse Foster said. “We’re going to try to take advantage of it this year, and we’ve been telling the guys all week that we wanna play three more games at home.”

Although the Tigers have been hit with the flu bug this week, Foster said he expects his squad to be at full strength when they play Beulah at 7:30 p.m. tonight. Dadeville will need to be wary of the Bobcats’ defense. The first time around, the Tigers scored an 80-53 victory, but in the second meeting, Beulah clamped down defensively and held Dadeville to just a 69-53 win.

Dadeville will rely heavily on forward PJ Eason and Jamauri Chislom as well as sharpshooters Jamarion Wilkerson and Jay Patrick to get the job done tonight.

If the Tigers win, they will take on the winner of B.B. Comer versus Randolph County in the championship at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

On the girls side, Dadeville faces off against Randolph County at 6 p.m. to open the tournament. Dadeville boasts just a 6-13 record on the season but won when it needed to, including a pair of victories over Randolph County. The Tigers won, 39-29 and 49-21 — the second meeting was their biggest margin of defeat this year.

Although Dadeville won the chance to host the tournament, Tiger coach Pam Holloway is preaching to her team not to overlook anyone.

“We definitely don’t think it’s a given, and I’ve put that in the girls’ heads,” she said. “Even though they are young, they still know that. I told them that basically everything starts (today) and if you lose (today), it’s over. We can’t take anyone for granted because at this point everyone should have the same goal in mind.”

Like the boys team, Holloway’s girls have also been hit with some sickness but she said she’ll be relying on point guard Nhylee Banks to run the offense and really direct things defensively. Janiya Wyckoff has done a majority of the scoring this season, and Holloway is hoping Natori Giles and Ka’Niyah Wilkerson will both kickstart things defensively. She’s also hoping for some senior leadership out of Nena Pearson, who is the lone senior on the team.

Like most coaches, Holloway knows it’s hard to beat a team three times, but she said most of that is due to mental strength, something she’s been working on with her girls at practice.

“I’ve experienced that over my years coaching because you have to keep the kids and yourself in the right frame of mind,” Holloway said. “You are preparing a third team for the same time, and you never want to take anyone for granted no matter how many times you played them or what the score was when you played them. Because anything can happen on any night.”

The winner of the girls semifinal matchup will face either B.B. Comer or Beulah at 5 p.m. Friday for the area title.