Talladega County Central High School’s girls basketball team will host archrival and No. 2-ranked Winterboro tonight at 6 at Clarence Marble Gymnasium.
The Lady Fighting Tigers have owned the rivalry the past four seasons, defeating the Lady Bulldogs 13 times in a row. TC Central defeated Winterboro four times last season, including a 64-58 win in the championship game of the Class 1A, Area 9 Tournament.
TC Central coach Ebonie Ferguson is new to the rivalry, but she already knows what this matchup means to both communities. The first-year coach said she doesn’t want her team to get caught up in the hype.
“I don’t want my girls to get too high or too excited,” Ferguson said. “I want them to go in like it is a regular game. I think sometimes when you are eager and excited about a rivalry game, it takes you out of your game.”
The past two regular-season matchups between TC Central and Winterboro have been decided by six points or less. Ferguson expects tonight’s game to be the same.
“It is going to be a dog fight,” she said. “I know that they are going to come in ready, and our girls are going to come in ready. I think that they are undefeated right now. It is a big game, not only for us, but for them as well. It is an area as well as a rivalry game. We are currently 2-0 in the area and we are trying to stay perfect in the area.”
TC Central will have the tough task of slowing down Winterboro’s high-powered offense.
The Lady Bulldogs are 8-0, including a 66-36 win over Faith Christian on Tuesday. During its win streak, Winterboro is averaging 68 points per game.
“I think we have to stay true to our defensive mindset,” Feguson said. “We have to be in good closeout position, we have to limit their shots, box out and get defensive rebounds. That’s our culture. We never want to give anybody an uncontested shot, so closeouts are very important. We want to keep the offense in front of us.”
TC Central (7-4,2-0) finished the first half of the season with a 49-48 loss to Piedmont on Dec. 20. Since that setback, the Lady Fighting Tigers have been in the gym working on themselves.
Ferguson said she brought players in one at a time to have them work on different aspects of their game.
“Over the break, we took time to work on individual needs,” Ferguson said. “Whether it was getting shots up, changing shots or working on ball handling. We worked on our weaknesses and continued to work on our strengths.”
Ferguson said the individual work will allow TC Central to change things up on both ends of the court in the second half of the season.
Even though some things changed, Ferguson wants her team to continue to do the things that made it successful in the first half of the season.
“I would like to see us continue to be big on rebounding, take care of the ball, execute and play hard,” she said. “I tell my girls to every game to play hard and leave it all on the floor.”