“It’s Birmingham now. That’s our goal. There’s nothing else.”
The emotions of such a tough defeat can be hard to overcome sometimes, but after the game Hatton head coach Chasta Chamness was firm.
The Hatton Lady Hornets came up oh so very short of reaching the Final Four in Birmingham Tuesday night, falling to the reigning state champions Cold Springs 50-47. It was a loss that will sting for a long time to come, but even still, Chamness wasn’t going to mince words.
This team will reach Birmingham, she said, and it wasn’t so much a prediction as much as it was a statement.
“Our goal this year was to get to Wallace, to win at Wallace and see if we can go further,” she said. “No more. Next year it’s Birmingham and that’s it. We’ve been on the edge, now it’s time to go further.”
It almost happened Tuesday night. After getting pounded by the Eagles at Wallace last year, it was a completely different ballgame. Hatton took it to the defending champs and nearly pulled the upset.
“We knew it would be a different game than last year, a much tougher game,” said Cold Springs coach Tammy West after the game. “They took us out of a lot of things we wanted to do. They have a great team and they’re very physical. Hats off to them.”
Hatton took control of the game in the first quarter, building a 13-12 lead. Freshman Kailyn Quails had 8 points, while Junior Kamie Kirk was proving to be a mismatch inside.
Cold Springs didn’t stay down for long though. The Eagles hit four threes in the second quarter and took a 24-20 lead at the halftime break.
Hatton, a strong defensive team, played well against the Eagles defensively, but were unable to use their press defense because of Cold Springs strong three point abilities.
“They have a lot of great shooters and they shoot the three ball so well,” Chamness said. “We’ve struggled with losing shooters when we’re trying to get back on our press into man so we decided not to press.”
Hatton kept chipping at the lead in the second half. Kamie Kirk, who has come on strong in the last couple games, was a nightmare for the Eagles as she led the Hornets with 18 points.
Her play came as somewhat of a surprise for Cold Springs.
“I’ve watched film on them this year and they weren’t always trying to get her the ball,” West said. “I watched their first game against Wallace and it’s like she was on another level. They were looking for her more and more and she’s definitely a difference maker.”
Hatton eventually came back to cut the lead to 3, but Cold Springs began chewing clock and playing keep away with two minutes left.
Hatton was forced to foul and like all good championship teams do, the Eagles hit their free throws.
“They do what great teams do, they hit their free throws,” Chamness said. “We thought we might have a chance at the end, but give them credit.”
Hatton finishes the season 28-6. They have overcome a lot of adversity this season, which includes losing star player Josie Harville in the first game to injury and also losing starting guard Mallory Lane in the first quarter Tuesday night.
“I’ve seen time and time again us get knocked down and these girls just get back up. When you see that kind of fight it really means something,” Chamness said. “We’re losing some good players, but we have a lot of really good players coming back. Hopefully we can get healthy and make a run next year.”