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Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Reeltown's Makayla Langston (45) takes a shot against Tallassee.

For the second year in a row, Reeltown’s girls basketball team will be hosting the Class 2A Area 8 tournament.

After a close contest all the way through Friday night’s game, the Rebels’ outcome with Thorsby came down to the wire. Carlee Wyatt hit a pair of free throws to put Thorsby up by two points with 48 seconds left, but Reeltown was not deterred. Taniya Haynes missed a short shot, grabbed her own rebound and was fouled on the way back up to the basket.

Haynes hit the front end of the pair of extra shots. Although she missed the second, teammate Makayla Langston had her back, grabbing the rebound and putting it back in to set the final score at 34-33 with 18 seconds left.

“It was highly competitive all the way through,” Rebel coach Will Solomon said. “Thorsby is very well coached and they play hard. They shoot the ball extremely well so I think what it boiled down to was our defense and our ability to limit their touches. As well as they can shoot the ball, you have to limit how many open shots they get.”

Defense has been the key to success for the Rebels, who wrapped up the area regular-season title with the victory against Thorsby. Reeltown (11-4, 5-0) has limited its opponents to an average of just 35.9 points per game this season.

What Solomon really attributes to the Rebels’ success though isn’t just their defense but how well they can move from one defensive set to another. Reeltown does a great job of playing to its opponents’ strengths and can even make in-game adjustments well.

“I think the ability to change defenses is our biggest advantage,” Solomon said. “We really don’t hang our hat on one defense. You match up against teams differently and we feel like at any point in the game, that ability to change defenses really helps us.”

The day after narrowly defeating Thorsby, Reeltown reeled off another win with a 56-47 defeat of Tallassee to move its win streak to nine games. It was Reeltown’s second-highest offensive output of the season.

Although the Rebels don’t do a whole lot of scoring — they’re averaging just 42.8 ppg — when they do, it can come from a myriad of sources. Langston is averaging a double-double with 13.6 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, and Haynes has put up 12.6 ppg. But Reeltown also has several role players who have contributed in other ways. Kenzie Hornsby and Diyanna Newton are both averaging more than 4.5 points per game.

“I talk about playing a role pretty much every day,” Solomon said. “Makayla and Taniya do a great job of creating and scoring, but it’s nice for them to know they have an outlet. Diyanna runs the floor extremely well. Kenzie has been shooting well and Eryn (Wells) is a great all-around player. Eryn does a lot of the little things that might go unnoticed to some people, blocking out and being in the right place on the floor defensively.”

Team chemistry is also clearly not a problem for Reeltown as most of the girls have been playing together for several years. They seem to have a knowledge of what each other is going to do at any given time, which makes their offense flow more seamlessly. Reeltown is averaging 7.1 assists per game.

Although winning the area regular-season title was a big goal and there’s definitely an advantage to hosting the area tournament, Reeltown isn’t done yet.

“The bottom line is you gotta win the area tournament,” Solomon said. “Our thing is we’re happy to have gotten a win and we’re happy to host the tournament, but between last Friday and when we start the tournament, we still have a lot to work on. The other three teams in our area are solid and they’re going to be working too, so we can’t be satisfied.” 

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.