Keith girls’ basketball team turns early lessons into success

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

The players on the Keith girls’ basketball team have come a long way.

The Lady Bears are now area champions, have reached No. 8 in the state’s rankings and are one win away from the regionals in Montgomery.

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But these are the same players that struggled on varsity six years ago and that got as far as sub-regionals before their season ended last year.

That experience has helped in a large way to prepare them for the adversity they’ve faced all year. And if they declare themselves among the elite in 2A girls basketball, it will be that much sweeter because of the lumps they took early in their careers.

“They’ve played together from seventh grade when they played on varsity,” Bears coach Tommy Tisdale said. “Unofficially, I think they went 2-22 that year. I’m coaching that exact same team. They expect to be down, they expect to be up, they expect to be bruised and they expect to be hit. But they play with a purpose. We expect to get something out of every possession.

“Every ball possession means something to this team.”

Tisdale is in his first season as coach of the Lady Bears. He has guided a team loaded with four seniors and four juniors to a 19-3 record. Its most recent win was over R.C. Hatch in the area tournament, and they will play Hale County for a chance to play in the regionals at Alabama State next week.

Ironically, it was the performance Tisdale saw in one of the girls’ losses that sparked his interest.

“I saw them lose to Selma last year by 12 or 13,” Tisdale said. “Nobody played that close to Selma, and not a lot of people were paying attention. When I first got here, nobody waited on me. They called me and asked what time we were working out. So that part was already there.”

Seniors Salisha Parker, Vanlisa Jones, Sabrina Williams, Keyonna Parker – along with a supporting cast of underclassmen – have carried the team all year.

A combination of maturity, playing experience and hard work has allowed the Bears to play with a surreal amount of poise this season.

The stiff competition they’ve already seen also reduces any worries both the players and Tisdale have about seeing the cream of the crop deep in the postseason.

“To be honest, I think we could look pretty good against anybody,” Tisdale said. “Obviously, I haven’t seen any of the teams in the north, but we should be okay if we’re fortunate enough to make it that far. You don’t see any other 2A teams playing schools like Selma, Wilcox-Central and R.C. Hatch, who has been in three of the last four state championships. But tournament play is like in the NCAA.

“It could be any team on any given night.”