COVINGTON, Ga. — What do you do when you want to get a good scouting look at your opponent’s 6-foot-3 post player but your team’s tallest player is 5-foot-8?
You call for the tallest teacher you can find to come and simulate.
That’s what Newton girls basketball coach Tiffani Johnson did in her attempt to give the Lady Rams a feel for what it’ll be like when 6-foot-3 freshman Kate Johnson and fifth-ranked Cherokee pays a visit to Newton High’s gym in Wednesday’s Class AAAAAAA girls state tournament Elite Eight round which will tip off at 6 p.m.
Newton assistant principal Carla Hull, of comparable height to Cherokee’s Johnson and a former Lady Ram and Georgia College player, was standing in the middle of the paint during a Monday practice, arms extended, playing defense and crashing boards.
Anything for Johnson to get an edge. Anything for Hull to show support.
“We knew we wanted to try and get a look at what they’re going to bring, so we brought in some reinforcement,” Johnson said. “When we asked Ms. Hull if she would do it for us, she was more than happy. She’s a former Lady Ram and has experience playing and coaching in college, so it was great to have her here to support us.”
Hull’s reason for doing it was simple.
“Just trying to help us get a win,” she said.
Such a gesture is just one of many examples Johnson cites that shows just how much backing the girls squad has gotten during Newton’s duo run to the Elite Eight.
“The support has been absolutely wonderful for us,” Johnson said. “It’s all over the school. Everybody’s been showing us how much it’s meant to the school to have our teams where they are at this point in the season now.”
Rams fans will have one last chance to show that support by packing out the home gym as No. 5 Cherokee will visit Newton Wednesday at 6 p.m. for an Elite Eight round showdown. Win or lose, this will be Newton’s last game of the season at Newton.
If the Lady Rams can push past their way past the Warriors Wednesday, they’ll face the winner of McEachern-Norcross on Saturday in at the Buford City Arena in Buford.
But first things first — focusing on the task at hand.
“Whenever you get close to big things, distractions come,” Johnson said. “We’ve just been telling them to stay focused and to block those things out and just know the task they have before them. I’m confident that if we do that we’ll have a good chance.”
Cherokee used a 64-42 win over Colquitt County in the Sweet 16 to get to this point, while sixth-ranked Newton survived a 45-40 scare from Lambert to qualify.
Johnson said that Cherokee, in many ways, reminds her of Lambert in that they’re a well-disciplined, well-coached team that can shoot and defend well. Newton will try to get out in transition and hope for some solid perimeter play to combat Cherokee’s size.
“I don’t think we’ve had our best shooting night yet in the tournament,” Johnson said. “It’ll definitely be important for us to be able to knock down some shots from outside.”
And although this is the farthest a Newton girls team has gotten in a state tournament since 1972, Johnson says don’t be surprised if the ride continues on into Saturday.
“Our girls have worked hard, not just this year, but even our seniors all four years they’ve been here,” Johnson said. “They’ve worked hard to get to this point, and I think they’re ready for it. They deserve to be where they are, and they’re ready to keep showing that.