History was not lost upon Reeltown girls basketball coach Will Solomon coming into Monday’s game against Abbeville.
“All week in practice I told them to not get caught up in the moment, that we’ve got to be focused on Abbeville and ready to play,” said Solomon as his Rebels and fans danced with the freshly cut net. “Our senior leadership, I think, had a lot to do with our focus this week.”
The Class 3A Southeast Sub-Regional affair was all that separated the two squads from a berth into the regional tournament.
For the Rebels, it’s been a while since they’ve marched on Montgomery. But after a 49-41 victory, Reeltown now has a date with the state’s Capital City.
“We have been waiting on this for so long,” Reeltown’s Kenzie Hornsby said. “We (Hornsby and teammate Makayla Langston) actually have relatives that were on the last team to go to regionals. So we want to work and be able to get back there.”
Langston said, “We wanted to win tonight so we can go to Montgomery and win for our seniors. This is their last year to play with us, so we wanted to go big for them.”
And big is what the Rebels became during a third-quarter run the changed the game.
“I think we started a little tight in that first half,” Solomon said. “All year, I’ve been telling them if you aren’t having fun playing basketball you’re going to be tight. And we let them get up on us a little bit. But once this bunch turned loose and played we were running.”
Down 20-18 after the first two periods, Reeltown came out firing on all cylinders and outscored the visiting Yellow Jackets, 9-0, to take a 27-20 lead. Overall, the Rebels rallied to outscore Abbeville, 17-6, in that period to take a 35-26 lead into the final frame.
“I’m proud this group played really good defense in the second half,” Solomon said.
All night, Abbeville created a matchup problem for Langston. Last week she was the tallest girl on the floor at 5-foot-11. Monday night, she had to tangle with a litany of rangy Lady Jackets who averaged 5-foot-9.
“I knew it was going to be a challenge. I knew that I could be better, go harder and be more competitive than them,” said Langston, who finished the night with 12 points and several key rebounds.
Things got dicey for the Rebels in the fourth quarter as the Lady Jackets began to sting, closing the gap to 43-41.
But the Rebels responded. Hornsby, who had trouble finding her range most of the night, stepped to the line with 1:22 left to play and calmly knocked down a pair of key free throws to push the lead to 45-41.
“I knew as soon as I stepped up to the line I had to make those free throws,” Hornsby said. “We needed all the advantage we could get. We’d been practicing free throws all week and I knew that would come in handy.”
Taniya Haynes posted 14 points and fueled Reeltown in the fourth quarter. Diyanna Newton finished the night with 13 points.