Red Bay team earns perfect record
RED BAY – The girls basketball program at Red Bay has a long history of success.
The display case in the gym is full of trophies for state championships, regional tournament titles, area titles and county titles.
One trophy is a little more special than the others – the county title trophy won by the ninth grade girls team last week.
What makes this county title so special is the way it was earned – with an undefeated record of 18-0.
"Its difficult to go undefeated," said Red Bay coach Tony Horton. "It all started with the summer program."
Horton said he wanted his team to succeed, but he also wanted to help build the future for the varsity program at the same time. To do this, he scheduled a tough summer program in which his team played several larger schools during a tournament in Birmingham.
The team, which lost all five of last year's starters to the varsity squad, was forced to come together quickly and responded by beating strong programs like Cold Springs, Tanner and Fyffe during the summer.
After the summer games, the Lady Tigers still did not have much respect as they began their season in the Lions' Club Tournament as underdogs.
Red Bay claimed that tournament title then turned its focus to the regular season.
Not all the games were easy.
The Lady Tigers trailed Fulton by 10 points before rallying for a 2-point victory and they had to make some big second-half shots against Belmont to beat the Lady Cardinals.
"Playing the Mississippi teams is tough because we play their junior varsity teams," Horton said. "We are usually playing against sophomores when we play them."
The Lady Tigers used a balanced offense and a strong defense to pile up wins as the season rolled along.
"We put a lot of pressure on the ball and are not afraid of playing anybody. We have one of the best pressure defenses around," Horton said. "Offensively, we had 10 or 11 games where everyone on the team scored."
Horton said the key to Red Bay's success was the team mentality his players adopted throughout the season.
While the team mentality produced wins, each player brought their own individual skills to the Lady Tigers.
Brooke Gresham moved up to the ninth grade team as an eighth grader last season and has given Horton two quality years of service.
Danielle Self is one of Red Bay's top reserves who always hustles and plays with quite a bit of heart Horton said.
Lauren Pacetti is Horton's top defender and usually defends players averaging 25 or more points per game. Horton said she is a great ball player and a great team player.
Jade Ezzell was moved the post position this season and responded by averaging about 10 points per game and 10 rebounds per game. Horton said she is also a strong defender.
Lexy Lindsey is the only eighth grader on the team and plays the No. 1 guard position. Horton said she does not lack confidence and can handle tough situations.
"She can do whatever I ask whether it is to play good defense, make a trey or grab a rebound," Horton said. "I put a lot of pressure on her with her being young, but I had a lot of confidence in her."
Morgan Mason is another player that gives Horton the most possible effort. Horton said she gives her all every time she steps on the floor and the best part of her game is her defense.
Jessie Barksdale is the team's center. Horton said she is a great defender and a great post player that always finds a way to grab a rebound when the Lady Tigers need one.
The final player on the roster holds a special place in Horton's heart.
"Mariah is my daughter. She is a great defensive player and the best passer I have ever coached," Horton said. "She is unselfish and will give the ball to another player."
Of course being a good player is nice, but by playing for her father Mariah has provided Horton with something special – great memories.
"You can't put a price tag on moments spent with your kids," Horton said.
While Mariah is his daughter, the other players are like family to Horton since he has coached them since they were in the first grade.
Horton is a volunteer coach and might not be back next season depending on what coaching changes occur at the school. He would like to return, saying it has been a dream to coach these girls over the years.
Whether he continues to coach or watches from the stand, Horton believes the sky is the limit for the Lady Tigers.
"I expect them to carry on and reach the goal of getting to Wallace State and Birmingham," Horton said. "Most coaches wouldn't be comfortable guaranteeing that (kind of success), but I believe in these girls."