All games on the Thompson High girls’ basketball team count the same when it comes to the win-loss ledger. However, as it turns out, two games carry a bit more weight when it comes to the success of a season.
Those two games happen to the be the next two games.
The Lady Warriors finish Class 7A Area 5 play with a home game against Vestavia Hills today and a trip to Tuscaloosa County on Friday. Tip time is scheduled for 6 p.m. for both games.
Head coach Jovanka Ward’s Thompson team already owns an area victory over Vestavia Hills and Tuscaloosa County. The Lady Warriors, who also have two area losses to Hoover, can claim a spot in the Class 7A Regionals. Entering the final week of area play, Hoover is 4-0, Thompson and Tuscaloosa County are 2-2 and Vestavia Hills is 0-4.
“It’s huge for us,” Ward said. “You’ve had a successful season if you can make it to regional. That’s kind of how we look at it. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on them, but I did. I challenged them in practice. I said, ‘This is important, finish strong.’ These last two are crucial, they’re really big for us. I know how important it is and I tried to communicate that to the team.”
The Lady Warriors have already taken a crucial step from a year ago. Last year, they dropped both area games to Tuscaloosa County. This year, they knocked off the Wildcats, 67-61, in the teams’ first meeting at Thompson.
That’s just one positive step that the program has taken since the beginning of the season. The Lady Warriors are 8-16 overall and 5-3 over the past eight games, with two of those losses coming to Hoover.
“We started off kind of slow,” Ward said. “Based off how we started, to be able to be able to progress and kind of play a bit better now, is definitely what I hoped to have happen. I wish, of course, it could have happened a little sooner. I’m pleased with the fact that we are growing through the storm.”
Ward said her team’s “chemistry” and the willingness to fight through tough situations are marks of the biggest growth areas.
“We had a (recent) game, we were down by 12,” Ward said. “Just to be able to deal with a little adversity and push past it when the odds weren’t in our favor. The fact that they are competing and sticking to what we need to do (and) have some fight, after being down, said a lot to me. I think we’ve learned how to continue to fight and compete.”
Ward said that junior Zoria Miller emerged as the team’s most consistent leader. Ward used the words consistent, effort and attitude to describe the 5-foot-7 Miller’s performance this season.
“You know what you’re going to get out of Zoria,” Ward said. “From a consistency, knowing what you’re going to get out of her, that’s every day – at practice and games. There are times, when she’s not on the floor, and there won’t be a single dose of communication. She’s probably one of our most improved players from one year to the next. She is an undersized post player, who can defend the guard.”
Sophomore Brooklyn Oden has also been a leader of a rotation that travels eight deep.