Childersburg survived one of its worst performances of the season to squeak out a win Saturday over Saks.
The Tigers' reward was one more home game. On Monday night, they made the most of it, claiming a 57-46 victory over Piedmont in the Class 3A girls sub-regionals.
"We didn't feel like we had any pressure in the sub-region game," Childersburg coach Gavin King said. "Didn't feel like many people thought we would be in the Sweet Sixteen this year. We were already playing with house money, and I think that helped us go out and play loose and play free and try and stun Piedmont."
The Tigers (18-11) return to the court Thursday at 6:30 p.m. In a normal year, this team would head to one of the traditional regional sites, but this season the AHSAA is limiting those games to regional finals to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Since Plainview (22-5) is the opponent, the Tigers will play one final home game in the Northeast Regional semifinals.
Regardless of who they play next, the Tigers found their way to their fourth straight regional despite returning zero starters from last season's Final Four run.
"I can't think of a game where I was really, just an individual game, just more proud of a group," King said. "Certainly, the last two teams we've had set all the school records and are going to be very tough to surpass, but for last night to beat a team that was older than us, they definitely had us outsized, to beat a team (like that) to get to the Sweet Sixteen. It was huge."
King said there is no question that Monday was the best game the girls have played all season, especially considering they made 7 of 22 behind the arc. For comparison, the Tigers were one of 24 on such shots Saturday.
"We've got multiple girls that have the green light, and this young group moving forward we're going to put up a lot of 3-pointers, we're going to play fast," King said. "That is the style I want to play and be successful with. We've had some growing pains this year, but we stayed the course, and the girls are bought in. … The night we needed it the most, it paid off."
Five different girls knocked down 3-point shots on Monday. Three were in the eighth grade, and two were sophomores. That youth is another reason King is so proud of this group.
It was a pair of eighth-graders, Rakiya Spell and Kamareona Simmons, that led the way for the Tigers with 16 points each while sophomore Jada Swain finished with 15, yet it was not their offense that decided the final quarter.
King said Simmons picked up her fourth foul during the final three seconds of the third quarter. At the time, Childersburg held a 15-point lead, but things looked a bit shaky considering the team's lead scorer this season, Swain, also possessed four fouls.
Suddenly Piedmont used a 7-0 run to cut the one-time 18-point deficit to eight.
"There were a couple of possessions, maybe two or three in a row where maybe Rakiya Spell or Molly (Kamareona) Simmons got steals, pushed it the full length of the court for layups," King said.
Those sort of defensive plays were present on Saturday against Saks, but the Tigers squandered most of their chances for easy buckets in that game. Against Piedmont, King said he watched his team grow up.
"We felt like we were the underdogs," King said. "And that was a fun role to have, and we will be huge underdogs in the Sweet Sixteen game regardless of who we play, but this team, we're playing our best ball in February."