Natchez girls take on Hattiesburg

Published 12:09 am Friday, February 19, 2010

NATCHEZ — It took a long time, but Natchez varsity girls head coach Sue Johnson finally got what she wanted.

When the Lady Bulldogs (16-10) routed Biloxi 71-39 Monday, Johnson said her players were able to put all the little things together for the first time this season.

“We played the best defense we’ve played all year,” Johnson said. “Our offense was clicking, too. That was the team I’ve been talking about, the one we hadn’t seen yet this season. We finally saw that team Monday.

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“We could have been scoring 70, 80 or even 90 points a game, if we played all season like we did Monday. But, I knew that eventually our shots would start falling.”

And Johnson said her team would have to emulate the same mindset it had against Biloxi when the Lady Bulldogs take on Hattiesburg Friday in the second round of the South State tournament in Hattiesburg.

“We’re going to need that energy Friday, because Hattiesburg is rated as the No. 1 team in Mississippi,” Johnson said. “They’ve won more games than any other team in the state.”

In scouting Hattiesburg, Johnson said she notices a lot of similarities between her team and theirs.

“We’ve got a tape of them, and from watching it, they remind me a lot of us. They’re very athletic, and they have a 6-footer, as well as a 6-foot-1 player. They’re a very aggressive, defense-oriented, fast-breaking team. It should be a good game.”

Johnson said the biggest difference in her team’s play Monday was a change of attitude exhibited by her players.

“We were just more aggressive,” Johnson said. “We were hitting the boards, made good passes and played good defense — just the basic fundamental things.”

And that was likely because of the do-or-die situation the postseason brings, Johnson said.

“I’m sure winning the district championship had something to do with them being fired up, but I also think they realized that this is it. If you lose, you go home, and they didn’t want it to end.”

Earlier this season, Johnson called out her senior players, saying they needed to show more leadership on the court. She was complimentary of their response to that challenge, but stressed that now was not the time to get comfortable.

“I’m very proud of my seniors, stepping up to the challenge,” Johnson said. “They were determined they were not going to lose that game Monday. Every loose ball or rebound, they wanted it, and that was a big difference for us. They’re going to have to carry that attitude over Friday, because as they go, we go.”

Tipoff for the Lady Bulldogs will be at 6 Friday night.