State of things

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

It would be easy for the Central Christian basketball team to go into this weekend’s area tournament thinking it has nothing to lose.

The Warriors, after all, are the regular season champions of AISA’s Region 1 Area 2.

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That title has secured them a spot in the state tournament in Huntingdon next week, no matter what the outcome of the area.

And after a rocky start, they have been playing their best basketball of the season the past few weeks.

So what’s to worry about?

For starters, this could be a replay of the 2004-05 season, in which the Warriors won the area, played host to the tournament and fell short of their goals.

The only difference is the Warriors aren’t the host team this time around.

“It could happen; it happened that year,” said CCA coach Carl Rawls. “We didn’t win our own tournament. But that made me a better coach knowing there could be some letdown thinking about the Elite Eight. I’ve said one time and I haven’t said it again: ‘We’re focusing on the area tournament.'”

There isn’t player on the current roster that was on the team two years ago. As a matter of fact, CCA is carrying just one senior, Eric Curtis.

But the team is focused and loose, something Rawls likes to see.

It’s also very young and inexperienced, and it has yet to be determined how the players will respond when their big moment comes.

“For some of these kids, it’s their first time playing organized ball,” Rawls said. “But they’re willing to work and learn. They worked hard during the summer, and now they’re seeing the payoff. It’s a gratifying feeling.

“We have a chance to win, and I really believe that.”

CCA’s two area championships are more impressive considering the school has only been in existence for eight years.

Rawls noticed the way support for the team has gradually changed. Although it is still primarily a football school, fewer seats in the gym are empty now.

It could have something to do with the Warriors’ style of play – an aggressive, attacking, man-to-man running game not common for small AISA schools.

Or it could be the success, not necessarily reflected in their 15-11 record. Rawls agreed they were quality losses, considering the top portion of their schedule is heavy with teams in larger classes.

“What we do is make sure we play good teams,” Rawls said. “We play 2A’s and 3A’s to make us better.”

They don’t always fall to the bigger teams, however. One of the Warriors’ most notable games was a 45-44 win over Bessemer, a 3A squad currently ranked sixth in AISA.

Although the outcome of the tournament has no effect on CCA’s berth in the state playoffs, they still have motivation to win this weekend in the form of Sumter Academy.

“Sumter won in overtime here a couple of weeks ago,” Rawls said. “My kids said they owed them one.”