HATTON - The 2021 season was a magical year for Hatton girls basketball. Not just because they reached the 2A state championship, but because it was the culmination of a four year plan.
In 2017-18, when the class of 2021 seniors were freshmen, head coach Chasta Chamness laid a plan in place, one that would allow that group of Hornets to eventually reach the state championship. That plan paid off last year when Hatton reached Birmingham for the first time since 2004.
“You always preach to your kids that hard work pays off, and it did,” said Chamness. “To reach that point and to prove to your kids that it does always pay off in the end, it was a great feeling.”
But now the question remains, what’s next for Hatton girls basketball? Well it certainly won’t be back to square one.
“We’re a different team, but our goal is still the same, that’s to get to Birmingham,” said Chamness.
Chamness said the hard work put into the program has helped change the goals.
“Four years ago our goal was just to get to Wallace,” she said. “That’s changed now, because the girls that have left and the ones that will take over have bought into what we are doing.”
Of course, it won’t be easy to get back to Birmingham.
Hatton lost four seniors from last season, all of whom started. Kamie Kirk was a first team All-State selection that signed with Gadsden State, while Joise Harville was third team All-State that signed with Shorter. Also gone is Mallory Lane and Grace Ann Johnson.
“Their leadership will be difficult to replace. They had been here so long,” Chamness said. “I only have one senior this year, so it’s going to be up for these girls to step up.”
Hatton won’t be able to rely on last year’s formula success to make a championship run. With Kirk, the Hornets were able to dominate in the paint. That won’t be the case this year.
“There’s not a lot of six foot Kamie Kirk’s walking through the door at 2A Hatton,” Chamness said. “We’ll be a very different team. There will be times where we have five guards on the floor. But our goal is to play fast and run.”
Dagen Brown will play point guard. Chamness calls Brown, who split even minutes at the position last year with starter Lane, the “best passer I’ve ever coached.” Lillie McGregor and Chloe Gargis will be back as big guards who will play in the post. All three played significant minutes in both the state semifinals and finals last year.
Then there’s Kailyn Quails.
As a freshman in 2019-20, Quails emerged as a star in the absence of Harville who missed the season with a torn ACL. She helped lead Hatton to within two points of reaching the Final Four, earning Lawrence County MVP and player of the year awards along the way.
Last year her numbers dipped as there were more mouths to feed in the Hatton attack. This year, however, she’s expected to once again be the Hornets’ biggest star.
“She and I have already talked about it. This team is hers, you run with it,” Chamness said. “She did that this past summer where she would just take over games and score, pretty much at will. That’s what I expect from her.”
With new players and a tough schedule, 2021-22 will be an interesting year for Hatton basketball. But as for what’s next, that question will be answered shortly.
“Reload,” Chamness said. “That’s our plan. Let’s reload and make another run at this.”