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Pittman not looking past Bibb County

Basketball coaches aren’t ever willing to forgive overconfidence. But, for once, some supporters of the Demopolis girls hoops team might excuse the Lady Tigers if they already feel pretty doggone good about their chances in Thursday’s 4A Southwest Regional semifinal.

Why? Demopolis is taking on the Lady Choctaws of Bibb County, whom the Lady Tigers faced twice during the regular season and defeated soundly each time. With Demopolis playing its best basketball of the season in three comfortable playoff victories over Livingston, Thomasville, and Escambia County, few observers would expect Bibb to challenge the state’s seventh-ranked team in Mobile.

But Demopolis head coach Tony Pittman says nothing that’s happened before will mean anything once the game tips off on Thursday.

“That’s one of the things we’ve stressed for the last couple of days,” he says. “We’ve played them twice already and were very successful. But this is the playoffs and they’re going to play as hard as they can. There’s no way we can overlook them. One letdown now, and the season’s over.”

One reason for the Lady Tigers not to look ahead to Saturday’s title game (which could be Demopolis’ fifth meeting with rival Greensboro, with whom the Lady Tigers split their four earlier contests) is that Bibb is playing much better than they had earlier in the year. The Lady Choctaws upset Greensboro at home, came within three points of the Lady Raiders on the road in the Area 6 title game, and took to the road again to upset Area 8 champion Montevallo in the sub-regional round.

The Lady Choctaws are led by 5-9 senior forward Octavia Ledlow and senior guard Charity Cottingham. Pittman saying denying Ledlow any easy baskets and containing Cottingham off the dribble are the keys for the Demopolis defense.

“We want to not let them run their offense the way they want to run it,” he says.

“We have to make sure we rebound well. They like to get on the boards with (Ledlow) and score off of offensive rebounds. We also have to keep their (Cottingham) from penetrating.”

On offense, Demopolis will look for its usual balance between scoring inside with its senior frontcourt of Kelli Johnson and Katerria Johnson and scoring outside through senior shooting guard Shawnese Armstead and sophomore point guard Jasmine Simmons.

One factor that might bother Demopolis less than its opponent is competing in the University of South Alabama’s cavernous Mitchell Center. The Lady Tigers have been frequent visitors to Regionals (the seniors have been all four years of their career) while Bibb County will be making only their second Regional appearance in the previous six years. Pittman firmly believes, however, that the game will be decided on the court–not by the venue that houses it.

“I wouldn’t say it would be a big advantage,” he says. “We are very familiar with the facilities. It’s a different environment to play on the bigger court and hopefully us being familiar will help … But their coach (Charles McCaleb) does a great job. I’m sure (Bibb County) is going to be prepared to play. And we’ve got to be prepared as well.”

Tip-off between Demopolis and Bibb County is set for noon. Other Thursday Regional games involving area teams include the Greensboro and UMS-Wright girls at 9 a.m. and the Greene County and Dallas County boys at 10:30 a.m.