BIRMINGHAM – It wasn’t pretty, but when the final buzzer sounded, Hatton found itself advancing to the finals of the 2A state tournament.
The Hornets knocked off Lanett 45-38 Wednesday in the Final Four, overcoming in the process their ugliest game of the year. The win puts them in their first state championship game since 2004.
“That was the worst game we’ve played all year,” said Hatton head coach “They should put our picture in the Webster dictionary next to the word survive, because that’s what we did today.”
Hatton came in on a hot streak, having won nine in a row by an average of 45 points, but Wednesday was an uncharacteristic off day for them. The Hornets struggled with Lanett’s press and turned the ball over 29 times as a result.
“We turned the ball over way too much. They were very quick and athletic and, even though we worked on it, they killed us with their trap,” Chamness said. “Free throws were actually what saved us, because we struggled to finish around the basket. That’s amazing to me because we’ve struggled at the free throw line all season.”
Despite all of that though, Hatton never trailed in the game. The Hornets led 12-6 at the end of the first quarter, 26-21 at halftime and 35-27 after three quarters.
“If that was our worst game of the year I’ll take it, because it’s behind us now,” said Chamness. “We won and we’re in the finals. That’s all that matters.”
Kamie Kirk led Hatton with 14 points, 10 of which came in the second half. And despite her offensive struggles in the first half, she still made her presence known on defense. Kirk’s presence on defense forced the Panthers to take wild shots and also forced them to sit Freshman 6-2 forward Laila Lancaster for the entirety of the second half.
“She played very smart on defense,” said Chamness. “She moved well and if a guard got beat she was there to help. And she didn’t swat at shots and pick up unnecessary fouls.”
Hatton will play in the state finals on Saturday at Bill Harris Arena beginning at 9 am. They will take on the winner of Pisgah and St. Luke’s. Hatton’s last state championship came by defeating Pisgah.
“I have to admit it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Chamness said. “I never had a doubt in my mind that we could. But to actually be here, it’s amazing, a dream come true.”