In many ways, this season was a preview of what is to come for Childersburg, a team that starts three eighth-graders, one sophomore and the only senior on the roster.
Thursday night's 89-32 loss to Plainview (24-5) in the Class 3A Southeast Regional semifinals demonstrated just how much farther the Tigers have to go before this program can return to the Final Four after consecutive trips in 2019 and 2020.
"The girls came out and still kept playing," Childersburg coach Gavin King said. "There's still some teaching moments there in the playing experience. Every second that our seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th graders got this year was valuable. I mean that is minutes they are getting late February that 75 percent of the state is not getting."
From an offensive standpoint, the Tigers seemed flustered by the full-court press Plainview employed for most of the evening. At times advancing the ball to even the half-court line appeared to require a heroic effort from two or three Tigers.
"It was an eye-opening experience for some of the younger ones," King said. "You know we had seen a lot of film on them, but seeing them in person and their speed and their skill definitely shows some of the younger girls where they want to be by their senior year."
Plainview led 43-14 at the half. That lead increased to 69-22 by the end of the third period as Childersburg's roster continued to struggle with an opponent that could substitute five girls at a time without experiencing a noticeable drop in defensive pressure.
"Certainly ball security and getting a little bit quicker is something we are going to have to get better at between now and next season," King said.
Sophomore Jada Swain and eighth-grader Rikaya Spell paced the Tigers with 16 and 15 points, respectively.
"Jada and Rakiya were able to take over somethings offensively," King said. "Using the ball screens to get loose and driving to the lane. … There is somethings we need to do to improve around those girls, but we've got some pieces."
Three to know
—In the opening two minutes, Childersburg looked more than capable offensively. During that stretch, two layups missed their mark and a pair of 3-point shots bounced off the inside of the rim. After that, the Tigers struggled even to inbound the ball successfully, and they trailed by 18 before Swain scored Childersburg's first points with 1:40 left in the first period.
—Spell kicked off a short 10-4 run for the Tigers when she drilled a 3-point shot with 20 seconds left in the opening quarter. Swain added three points with an and-one call in the first 30 seconds of the second period. Overall, Spell and Swain were responsible for all 14 of the Tigers' first-half points.
—Any chance of a Tigers' comeback in the second half faded when Plainview eighth-grader Lauren Jimmerson scored 12 of her game-high 23 points in the final five minutes of the third quarter. During that same stretch, Childersburg only managed to outscore the rest of the Bears 6-4.
—King on Childersburg's start to the game: "In the first couple of minutes, we actually played pretty decent defense. We got some stops, we had some chances to take the lead early in the game multiple times, and if some of those shots fall and we jump out ahead and maybe we're able to hang in a little longer."