Montevallo advances to regional tournament with win at LaFayette

The Montevallo High School girls’ basketball team has been known for its defense throughout the 2009-2010 season.

Bulldogs’ coach Tena Niven knew her team’s defensive pressure would determine the outcome of a Class 3A sub-regional game Feb. 11 at LaFayette in the Alabama High School Athletic Association playoffs.

Niven wasn’t pleased with the defensive effort for the most part, but the Bulldogs turned it up a notch in the fourth quarter to escape with a 52-47 win at LaFayette.

“We were down for most of the game,” Niven said. “We really turned it up on defense and it got us back in the game tonight.”

Montevallo advanced to the Central Regional tournament on the campus of Alabama State University in Montgomery. The Bulldogs (22-8) will face Sumter County in the semifinals Feb. 18 at 9 a.m.

Amber Cardwell led Montevallo with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Shanise Hudson added 16 points, seven rebounds and seven steals. Mallory Anderson chipped in eight points. Savanna Smith finished with six points and five assists.

The Bulldogs will make their third regional tournament appearance in four years next week, including their second-consecutive trip to the Central Regional in Montgomery.

Niven, who said she had big plans for her youthful squad since the outset, noticed the Bulldogs’ improvement during the course of the season.

“(Reaching the regional tournament) was definitely a goal for me,” Niven said. “With them being so young, I’m not sure how many of them had it as a goal. I think it caught them by surprise, but I knew we had a chance.”

Niven said the Bulldogs will face a tough Sumter County team in the Central Region semifinals, but they aren’t ready for the season to end.

“It may be a short trip to Montgomery,” Niven said, “but we’re in the Sweet 16. We’re going to give it our best shot.”