SYLACAUGA -- At the end of Saturday’s Class 5A state championship basketball game between Sylacauga and Eufaula, the only certainty is one team will stand tall and one team will feel the sorrows that come with a loss.
But when the squads tip off at 10:45 a.m. at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex, Aggies head coach Will Copeland said his team is going to give its best.
“We’ve worked hard, prepared and done all we can,” he said. “Like every game, you’ve just got to tip it up, go out there and compete for 32 minutes as hard as you can. It’s the last 32 minutes for both teams.”
Eufaula junior guard Laquaveous Nelson led the Tigers with 22 points, nine rebounds and three steals in a 79-73 semifinal win over Wenonah on Wednesday. Teammates Tyler Mayo (19 points), Eiszeric Thomas (12) and Jadarious Blackshire (10) all contributed double-figure scoring efforts.
“They’re a good shooting team,” Copeland said. “They do a good job of taking it to the bucket. They do a good job of getting after it defensively and are a good rebounding team.
“I’ve known Coach (Michael) Smith for years (from) when he was at Russellville High School. I’m familiar with his teams. They’re always good, they always play hard and it’s a very tough matchup for us.”
Copeland said his team showed improvement in Friday’s practice.
“We had a better practice,” he said. “We had a little pep rally at the end, and we told the guys at this pep rally, ‘We’ve got to keep going, at least going over some more and get some shots up.’ We’ve just got to keep plugging. It’s all we can do.”
Much like the emotional 59-55 win over Talladega on Wednesday, Copeland said the possibility of winning a state title for the first time since 1988 should be put on the backburner until the task has been accomplished.
“We need to stop talking about the prize and we need to start talking about what we’ve got to do to get the prize,” he said. “It’s always going to be that you’re preparing to win, but you’ve got to have will to prepare as well.
“You’ve got to make sure you’re worried about the matchups, what they’re doing and knowing where you’re supposed to go. I think these guys are going to respond to that.
“When we get in the locker room (Saturday), we’ll be sure to understand the X’s and O’s of what we’ve got to do and and then bring all their heart into the game.”
Copeland said his team will need to have an all-hands-on-deck mentality.
“It’s just everybody,” he said. “A lot of them we’ve really pushed to win these games, and sometimes the bench gets (in there), but for the most part, we’ve had some guys that haven’t been getting many minutes. They’ve still worked and still done what they’re supposed to do. It’s a good thing.
“We’re just looking for everybody to be ready because you never know in a game like this whose number is going to be called and asked to do something on the floor. Hopefully, they’re ready when it comes their turn.
“At this time of year, it (isn’t anything) personal -- you’re just trying to get a win. You’re going with your gut sometimes about who’s going to do what you want them to do in a game.”