Though there has been time for celebration for Sylacauga High School’s boys basketball team after its emotional 59-55 victory over archrival Talladega in a Class 5A state semifinal at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex on Wednesday, the Aggies’ journey still has one stop remaining.
Sylacauga head coach Will Copeland and his squad have an opportunity to bring home something the boys basketball program hasn’t claimed in 30 years when the Aggies (30-5) face Eufaula (29-9) on Saturday at 10:45 a.m. at the BJCC -- a state championship.
“People are excited, and it’s great they’re excited,” Copeland said. “We wanted to enjoy it. We came home today, and we went through the halls. People were there to (welcome) us back, which was awesome, but then we walk through the doors and we’ve got to get ready for a state championship game.
“That’s something that takes a lot of maturity for these kids to have the win that we had last night, but we’ve got to turn around and get ready for the state championship game. We’re diligently working on that every day.”
Copeland said his players went back to work practicing Thursday afternoon.
“We didn’t do too bad,” he said. “We were a little rusty. It’s a long season, and we had some guys who really weren’t putting forth some effort. We had to end practice and basically had to tell them, ‘Look, we’re playing for a state championship. Everybody’s excited about this.’ We’ve got to get everybody on the team excited about what’s going on for us as a basketball program and what we’re going to try to do on Saturday.”
Copeland said while a victory over Talladega -- a team that had beaten the Aggies three times prior to the Final Four showdown -- merits discussion, he cautioned there’s plenty of time for that later.
“Even though it’s an emotional win, we have to stop talking about it,” Copeland said. “You’re always going to reflect, but you’ve got to focus on Eufaula because that’s who you play next.
“When you get to the end of the season, that’s the time for reflection. But right now, it’s just time for everything -- all the scouting and all the talk has got to be about what’s next because there is another game, and it’s a very big game that these kids are going to remember the rest of their lives.
“That’s where the focus has got to be in practice, and that comes from the coaches to your leaders. They’ve got to focus on that, talk about it and have their actions back up what they say.”
Eufaula’s brand of Tigers defeated Wenonah 79-73 on Wednesday to set up Saturday’s championship game.
“Wenonah was one of the top teams in the state all year, and we’ve seen them in a tournament,” Copeland said. “(For Eufaula) to go out and beat them with the poise and confidence that they had just shows you how good of a basketball team they are. Any time you get to a state championship game, you’re going to be up against one of the best in the state. That’s what we’ll be facing on Saturday.”