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Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Dadeville's Nhylee Banks, left, goes up for a shot against Montgomery Academy on Monday night.

With such a young girls basketball team, Dadeville knew it was going to see some growing pains this year. But the Tigers made some great strides and even upset Beulah to win the Class 3A Area 8 championship.

So there was a lot to be proud of for Dadeville despite a Monday night loss to Montgomery Academy, 57-36, in the Southeast Sub-Regionals. But if the Tigers want to take it a step further next year, coach Pam Holloway knows they’re going to have to start now.

“I’m going to depend a lot on them in the offseason and not waiting until the season starts to say, ‘Hey, look how close we got; let’s do better next year,’” Holloway said. “They’re going to have to work on that now. Even if they’re doing another sport, still they can work on those skills during another sport. There’s so many things they can do to improve their skill level even playing other sports.”

Dadeville (10-13) knew it was in for a challenge going up against the Eagles on Monday night. Montgomery Academy (23-7) was sitting at No. 10 in the final Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 3A rankings, and it came in with a hunger after falling in its area championship to Pike Road.

Early on, the Tigers looked like they were going to give MA a good fight. The game went back and forth for the first few minutes but after Dadeville held a 4-2 lead, the Eagles reeled off seven straight points. They finished the quarter on a 14-3 run and kept it going in the second frame, during which they held Dadeville to just 10 points. Once Montgomery Academy held a double-digit lead, it never looked back.

The Tigers were prepared for the high-pressure defense MA presented. But despite having practice for what was to come, Dadeville looked flustered during the game and committed turnover after turnover to allow the Eagles to pull away.

“There were things that we had work on that we knew they would be doing as far as the half-court trap and running in transition,” Holloway said. “Those were all things we knew they would be doing and had work on, but we just didn’t take care of the ball like we had discussed.” 

Dadeville finished with 32 turnovers, including 11 in the third quarter alone, which is when Montgomery Academy solidified its big lead. After trailing by just 11 at halftime, Dadeville was outscored 16-5 in the third quarter.

One positive was the Tigers never gave up. They played their best ball during the fourth quarter but it was too little, too late.

“We just have to keep trying to find ways to motivate them,” Holloway said. “We’re always trying things throughout the season and in life to show them and try to give them examples so they can see you don’t give up on anything you do. We have to keep working, and if you want to see change, you’re each going to have to make that change.”

Holloway’s postgame message was a lot about life lessons and each player taking individual responsibility.

“If each person makes little changes, it’s going to help the whole group,” Holloway said. “We also discussed the next step. Tomorrow may not be basketball but there’s going to be something that they’re going to have to be disciplined about and know how to handle in life that’s going to relate to what we went through this season.” 

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.