Drew coach Candence Jackson says her team has "all the tools" it takes to win a state championship.
Last season, Drew surprised a lot of people when it won the Region 4-AAA girls basketball title in its first varsity season.
The Lady Titans will not have that element of surprise this season, especially with their first senior class in school history.
With Rutgers signee Precious Person providing the offensive punch and defensive energy, the Lady Titans were the shoo-in favorite to repeat as region champions. So far, Drew hasn’t given any indication that it’s not up to the task.
“Last season, we sort of made a statement,” Drew coach Candence Jackson said. “We know we came into this season with a target on our back. Every team we’ll play is going to bring their A-game to the court.”
Drew is 14-4 overall and 9-1 in the region. With eight seniors on her roster, Jackson knows the future is now for this group.
“We feel it’s our year to take state,” Jackson said. “This group has been playing together for a while. I think they have the tools to win state.”
“This year’s team has jelled more quickly than the last year’s group,” she said. “We are a quick team with a lot of speed and height. I think this team has the ability to take it all.”
But don’t mistake the team’s confidence for cockiness.
They know that they have to do more than just show up for region games. Sandy Creek provided a lesson to the Lady Titans on that front.
After defeating Sandy Creek 57-44 on Dec. 17, the Lady Titans fell 61-40 in the rematch on Jan. 10.
“That was our wake-up call,” senior Kiara Henderson said. “We can’t relax against any team. We want to get back to the (state) tournament, and this season we want to go further. We feel we have the right chemistry, and we’re playing as a family.”
Jackson seems to know what buttons to push with this group.
In Drew’s 74-26 win over Locust Grove Tuesday, Jackson encouraged the team to turn up its defensive intensity in the third quarter by threatening them with extra laps in practice.
Drew out scored Locust Grove 29-5 in that quarter to put the game out of reach.
Since the Sandy Creek loss, the Lady Titans have won three straight, heading into Friday’s game at Spalding. Drew will play at Jackson on Tuesday before ending the season with a five-game homestand.
“We have to keep a level head,” Person said. “That loss to Sandy Creek hurt. We want to finish strong, but we have to take it one game at a time. From here on out, we don’t want to lose.”