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Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Reeltown's Demetria Brown (2) drives to the basket in front of Fayetteville's Mary Maness on Monday night.

After having to battle back from a large deficit against Beauregard last week, the Reeltown girls basketball team learned its lesson about slow starts. Although the Rebels escaped with a narrow victory against the Hornets, they saw just how much tougher a victory becomes after coming out of the gate on the wrong foot.

The Rebels seemed to take that to heart Monday night as they led Fayetteville in the blink of an eye in the Class 2A Area 8 semifinals. Less than three minutes into the game, the Rebels already held a nine-point lead and the first quarter featured a 17-point scoring run for Reeltown.

After that, there was no looking back as the Rebels went on to earn a 66-14 victory.

“The way I look at it, you’re either going to get off to a quick start or a sluggish start,” Rebel coach Will Solomon said. “I always want to be positive about it and come out and really play hard to start out. If we make mistakes early, we just have to adjust how we’re playing.”

There weren’t a whole lot of mistakes to speak of during Monday’s first quarter, though. The Rebels scored the first six points and led 23-3 just seven minutes into the game. They didn’t commit a turnover the entire first quarter and although they finished with 17 on the night, they were competing with a lot of younger players.

With the victory, Reeltown advances to the area championship where it will face Thorsby at 6 p.m. tonight. Thorsby was a 55-21 winner over Central Coosa in the other semifinal Monday.

Reeltown swept Thorsby during the regular season but both games were close throughout. The Rebels won at home, 38-25, but were pushed to the limit, eking out a 34-33 victory on the road just two weeks ago.

“It’s going to be 32 minutes of competition,” Solomon said. “It’s been really good competition all year and we’re expecting more of the same. They’ve got a really good team. They’re well coached, play good defense and shoot the ball well. So it’s going to be a highly competitive game, and that’s how it oughta be.”

Defense is going to be a focus for the Rebels tonight as it has been all season long. That was one of the big reasons they got a dominating victory against Fayetteville in the semifinals. Reeltown (15-4) held the Wolves to only one field goal the entire first half and just one point in the second quarter. Fayetteville committed 24 turnovers, and the Rebels were led by Taniya Haynes who grabbed four steals.

The best part about having such a convincing victory was being able to play the entire roster and getting all the Rebels time in a playoff atmosphere. And they all contributed in one way or another. Thirteen different Rebels had at least one rebound. Haynes scored nine points and nine assists; Makayla Langston led the offense with 12 points and was one rebound shy of a double-double; Nyla Hayden racked up 13 boards and also scored eight points. Also coming off the bench, Dasia Keith grabbed eight rebounds and Katie Hammonds notched six. Yonna Kimble had four points and three blocks.

“To get everybody involved in the game was really good,” Solomon said. “The other night with Beauregard, we pretty much had to use everybody we had (because of foul trouble). The more experience these girls can get, the better off we’re going to be. I was really pleased with all 15 and how they played (Monday). Everybody really played hard.”

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