By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Coming into the do-or-die Region 7-3A Girls Tournament Semifinal against the Hardin County Lady Tigers, Potter was 32 minutes away from having a chance to play in her first Regional championship and reach Saturday’s Sectionals.
Familiar District 13-3A foe the Lady Tigers pushed the Lady Cougars to the limit for three quarters. Then a scoring outburst by Potter’s fellow senior Gabby Crawford elevated Munford to a 42-32 victory.
“It feels really good to be back in Sub-State,” Potter said. “We unfortunately didn’t get to make it my sophomore year. It kind of sucked that I couldn’t play last year and I just had to watch. It does mean a lot because this is the first time we’ve gone back-to-back Sub-State.”
In 2016 the Lady Cougars suffered a buzzer-beating defeat courtesy of the Bartlett Lady Panthers. On the eve of the 2016-17 campaign, Potter went down with a knee injury missing the entire season.
This year Potter has bounced back as a key contributor and as the 2018 District 13-3A Tournament MVP.
In the Regional Semifinal Potter went back to her role as a defensive stopper and rebounder. Meanwhile her teammates Crawford and Aliyah Lee paced the Lady Cougars to stay close with the Lady Tigers with the score 16-14 at the break in favor of Munford.
“I told our team, ‘From my experience, this might be the toughest game of the year because what’s on the other side of it,’” Munford Head Coach Steve Poindexter said. “’And what’s on the line.’ I talk to our kids all the time about how do you respond when things aren’t going your way. It easy to run up and down the floor and look good when things are going your way.
“I feel like there were a lot of things early that weren’t going our way,” he continued. “We struggled offensively for the whole first half. I kept telling our kids, ‘If you just play defense, we’ll figure it out offensively. We’ll find a way to score.’ And that’s what happened in the third quarter.”
Crawford hit a triple to conclude the third period with Munford ahead 22-18. The Alabama signee would go on to score 10 of Munford’s next 14 points in the closing period.
Lee got the Munford fourth going with a pair of buckets in the post to make the score 26-18. Then Crawford took over to give the Lady Cougars a comfortable advantage.
“I try to put the team on my back because I know they’re depending on me,” Crawford said. “I’m trying to knock down shots and I’m trying my best not to be frustrated when I miss.”
Crawford wasn’t missing much in the third and fourth quarter. making a layup and a jumper to give Munford a 30-18 lead.
Moments later Crawford attacked the bucket for another score. After another Crawford deuce, the Lady Cougars were ahead 34-18.
“Gabby basically put us on her back and carried us there in the third quarter to get comfortable against them so we could dictated the pace,” Poindexter noted.
Lady Cougar freshman guard Maiya Reed closed out the contest making 3 of 4 foul shots to send Munford into Wednesday night’s championship game.
“It feels good because a lot people were saying we wouldn’t make it this far,” Crawford said. “So we just want to keep continuing on and go into practice so we can keep proving everybody wrong.”
Potter is happy to finally have her chance to represent the Munford Lady Cougars on Region 7-3A’s biggest stage.
“We have to go out there and play as a team if we want to win,” she noted. “I feel like if we play together as a united front, if we don’t try to do our own thing, we can go out there and win.”
And the advice Coach Poindexter gives all his players will continue to motivate Potter who knows not to take the next game for granted.
“Coach always says, ‘Play like it’s your last game,’” she concluded. “So I just want to keep playing like it’s my last game.”