Rebels headed to championship game

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

Coosa Valley Academy girls’ basketball coach Kimbo Rutledge called a timeout to ask his players a simple question with his team trailing by four points with three minutes left in an Alabama Independent Schools Association Class 1A semifinal contest Feb. 16 at Huntingdon College in Montgomery.

“I looked at Jordan (Smiley) and I could tell she wanted to win so bad,” Rutledge said. “I asked, ‘Can we win this game?'”

Rutledge soon got his answer as the Rebels stole the ball and converted baskets on the offensive end on their next three possessions to overcome the fourth-quarter deficit and defeat Ashford Academy 42-39 to advance to the AISA Class 1A championship game.

Coosa Valley (19-2) will face Crenshaw Christian Academy in the AISA Class 1A championship game Feb. 17 at noon at Huntingdon. The Rebels are searching for their first state championship in girls’ basketball.

Kaylan Rich led the Rebels with 15 points. Rich also grabbed 12 rebounds in the victory.

Lauren Archer contributed 13 points and 12 rebounds. Jordan Smiley, a senior, chipped in nine points and 11 rebounds.

Coosa Valley jumped out to a 10-6 lead after the opening quarter before heading into the second quarter with Rich and Smiley, who picked up three fouls each in the first period, in foul trouble.

The Rebels struggled with the duo hampered by foul trouble and were outscored 12-6 in the second quarter before heading into the locker room at halftime with an 18-16 deficit. Rich scored all six of the Rebels’ points in the second quarter.

Rutledge gave credit to Rich and Smiley for staying on the floor in the second half. Despite entering the second half with three fouls each, neither player fouled out of the game.

Rich played a key role down the stretch for the Rebels, who trailed by eight points one minute in the fourth quarter. Rich scored seven of her 15 points in the final period to help Coosa Valley complete its comeback.

“We played about as bad as we could have played,” Rutledge said. “But all that matters is we’re playing one more game.”