Kingwood Christian ladies playing for state championship, again

Four tries, all short.

This is what is in the mind of the Kingwood Christian Lady Lions this Friday morning as they prepare for their third trip in four years to the Alabama Independent Schools Association (AISA) State Championship. However, the focus on this fifth attempt for the Class of 2007 is not on shortcomings but that tonight’s the night, as they meet Marion Military Institute in the state finals at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

“We want to win it all, and I think the girls are very determined to make that happen. I feel good about my girls going into today’s game,” said Coach Jerry Stearns.

It’s been an impressive season for the Lady Lions (21-4), who have posted lop-sided wins

Scattered through the season, including a 71-42 win over No. 1 seeded Marion on Jan. 29 and a 70-36 quarterfinal win last Friday over Jackson Academy.

With offense being a theme for the Lady Lions, defense was the subplot of Thursday’s 48-39 seminal win over Lowndes Academy.

Both teams were unable to find the basket in the opening eight minutes of play, as Lowndes held small 3-2 lead entering the second quarter.

“They’re a very good defensively sound basketball team,” Stearns said. “I think we are too. We just each threw some really good defense out. I don’t think playing at 11 a.m. played a role, because last week we played at 10 in the morning and scored 70 points. The biggest thing was their man defense. We knew going in that no body was going to play a zone the way we’ve been ripping 3-pointers.”

Led by Kaitlin Rozof, the Lady Lions have put up a 3-point percentage close to 48 percent per game through the post season, but were held to 29 percent Thursday, with Rozof going 0-for-5 from the arc.

“We only hit a few threes, and those were highly contested,” Stearns said.

“Everything was guarded close.”

Trailing 11-6 with 2:25 to play in the first half, the Kingwood defense posted six-consecutive stops on defense and closed the half on a 9-0 offensive run to go up 15-11 at the break.

Lowndes opened the third period with a 6-2 run to the game at 17-17 with just under six minutes to play in the quarter. Moments later Hannah Phillips hit back-to-back 3-point baskets to break a 20-20 tie and spark a 10-3 run to the end of the third quarter. She finished with 24 points in the game. Rebecca Simpson, who added four points to the third quarter run, had 11 for the game.

In the fourth quarter, Kingwood shot 5-for-7 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the free throw line to pull away with the victory and position them in Friday’s final.

Now the Lady Lions look to win their second straight against MMI, who defeated Kingwood by four points earlier in the season in Marion, only to fall by 29 in Alabaster two weeks ago.

“We know what they do and what to expect from them,” Stearns said.

His Lady Lions take the court at Huntingdon College Friday with only one option in mind – bring an AISA banner back to Shelby County