Unless that team is playing Lynn.
The Bears have been dominating opponents with a smothering defense this basketball season, holding teams to a paltry 21.5 points per game. The Bears set the tone in a season-opening win over Winston County, giving up just 16 points to the Yellow Jackets. Lopsided wins and shut-down defensive efforts have followed since.
Lynn’s defensive dominance didn’t happen overnight. It’s been years in the making.
“Back when these girls were in eighth and ninth grades, we weren’t very good on offense,” Lynn basketball coach Adam Gray said. “We knew if we were going to win that we had to base everything we did on good man-to-man defense. It’s something we’ve focused on every day. Now it’s something that comes second nature to us.”
Lynn (29-1) has given up 30 or more points just five times this season and the only team to top the 40-point mark was Good Hope, which beat the Bears 42-38 in mid-December.
Lynn has reeled off 20 straight wins heading into today’s Northwest Regional Tournament matchup against Shoals Christian (14-14). The game tips off at 6 p.m. from Wallace State-Hanceville’s Tom Drake Coliseum.
Along with junior guard Reagan Tittle and senior post players Jackee Dodd and Lindsey Tompkin, Lynn has counted on a pair of juniors to take on the opponents’ best offensive weapon.
“This year, two girls — Brooke Harris and Emma Easley — have stepped into that role of guarding the best player on the other team,” Gray said. “Those are the two that night in, night out, get that assignment, especially if it’s a guard or wing-type player.”
Lynn defense was especially dominant in the Class 1A, Area 13 Tournament, blistering Marion County 58-13 in the tournament championship. The Bears led 30-0 before the Raiders got on the scoreboard. The Bears won their area tournament opener by 49 points over Sumiton Christian.
“We love when we can look up at the scoreboard and the other team only has two or four points,” Harris said. “We played one team this year where we went into halftime and they had four points. We know it’s hard for teams to score when we play our best defense.”
In the sub-regional game, Lynn held Decatur Heritage in check in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Eagles 22-2 en route to a 60-35 victory.
“If I was on another team, I would be nervous about playing us. We work hard on our defense in practice. That gets us ready. When we press people, that stops them big time,” Easley said.
Lynn is a perfect 23-0 against 1A competition this season.
The Bears also knocked off three larger schools in the Winfield Christmas Tournament, beating Class 3A Winfield, Class 3A Danville and Class 4A Carbon Hill. Lynn allowed just 68 points in the tournament.
“Our defense puts a lot of pressure on the other team. They know they are going to get a limited number of possessions and in those possessions there is a lot of pressure to score. We only average eight turnovers a game so they aren’t going to get a lot of second chances,” Gray said.
Lynn is one of the most experienced teams in the state when it comes to continuity among its players. Over the last three years, the team has graduated just two starting players and put together a 85-5 record.
In Gray’s first year, the team finished 14-14, upsetting Hubbertville on the road to earn the school’s first trip to the regional. Lynn has followed suit each of the next three years, going 26-2, 30-2 and 29-1.
“I figured it out and these girls have probably played 175 games together counting both summer ball and the season. That’s a lot of games. It’s kind of a unique situation, having the same four girls playing together for four straight years,” Gray said.
Lynn is one win away from a possible regional rematch against R.A. Hubbard, the team that has eliminated the Bears from the regional each of the last three years.
“We’ve been in every ball game we’ve had with them to a point. It seems like the third quarter, each of the past two years, has been our undoing for some reason. Last year we cut their lead to two points at halftime and then we came out and had another dry spell in the third quarter that kind of did us in. I hope, in one week from now, we’re not talking about getting put out by the same team for four straight years,” Gray said.
Lynn players are hoping to end the streak if they get a rematch on Saturday.
“We’ve lost to them every year since my ninth grade year,” Easley said. “I think this year it’s going to be a really good game. Every year we go into halftime either down two or three points and we don’t play well in the third quarter. We make turnovers and don’t stop them on defense. With the defense we play this year, I think we are going to shut them down in the third quarter. I’m pretty confident this year.”
Harris is confident as well.
“We are looking forward to it. We’ve played them the last four years and they’ve beaten us every time. We think we can beat them this time. That would just be awesome. I just hope we get to play them Saturday so we can say we beat them finally,” Harris said.