Prattville Christian wins in AHSAA Class 3A Final Four against Susan Moore

Nick Alvarez
Montgomery Advertiser

BIRMINGHAM – They filed into the gym after practice with snacks and a message.

It was Feb. 22 and Prattville Christian had just finished its final practice before the AHSAA regional title game against Montgomery Academy, a team PCA had lost to five times prior in the 2020-21 season. Parents, teachers and other coaches walked in for a pep talk. They then formed two rings — the team comprising one, the parents encircling their kids in the other — and prayed. 

They told players they had the school's support behind them, not only against MA but eventually in Birmingham. The players just had to believe. And they did. 

Days after the meeting and emotional win, PCA continued its run. The Lady Panthers defeated Susan Moore, 70-56, in the AHSAA Class 3A Final Four in the Bill Harris Arena at the Crossplex. 

Prattville Christian head coach Jason Roberson coaches against Susan Moore High School during their AHSAA state finals game in Birmingham, Ala., on Monday March 1, 2021.

"It means a lot to our school and to our community," coach Jason Roberson said, " ... I've been at PCA for 20 years for a reason. ... Our motto is 'To find a way.'"

HOW THEY GOT HERE:Prattville Christian girls basketball wins AHSAA regional final in familiar close finish

INSIDER:Hannah Jones, CoCo Thomas spark Prattville Christian girls basketball Final Four run

Ella Jane Connell (30 points, four rebounds, three steals) and Hannah Jones (19 points, 12 rebounds) anchored the Lady Panthers (27-6). They attacked the Susan Moore (31-3) defense inside-out, both hitting late field goals and free throws to avoid a double-digit collapse. 

Connell won matchups on the wing and in the post. Jones and Coco Thomas (10 points, 11 rebounds) cleaned up misses. Roberson called multiple timeouts in the second half to weather Susan Moore runs. Plays designed to free shooters on the wing created space for Connell to drive. 

Prattville Christian's Hannah Jones (23) grabs a rebound against Susan Moore High School during their AHSAA state finals game in Birmingham, Ala., on Monday March 1, 2021.

At the end of the third quarter, Connell nearly lost the ball atop the key. She kept her dribble, dove to the paint and swung a pass to Avery Rogers, one of four starters to play all 32 minutes, for a 3-pointer. 

"I did feel comfortable with the ball in my hands," Connell said.  " ... That's what my team needed me to do. Take care of the ball."

Still, Connell tired in the fourth quarter. The constant double-teams turned to triple teams and Hallie Holmes (25 points) sparked a Lady Bulldogs run to cut the margin to five. During a timeout, Roberson reiterated his pregame edict: Drive to the rim.   

Susan Moore's 3-point offense faltered (4 for 19) when PCA limited turnovers. A few of Connell's 16 total free throws secured a 9 a.m. March 5 contest against either Sylvania (23-7) or T.R. Miller (14-2) in the championship game. 

Prattville Christian players celebrate after defeating Susan Moore High School during their AHSAA state finals game in Birmingham, Ala., on Monday March 1, 2021.

Amid the celebration, PCA parents in the stands took out phones and waved them in the air. The student section chanted "Coach Rob" and lifted a cutout of Roberson's head in the air. The Prattville Christian community had taken over the Crossplex. They'll do it again on Friday morning. 

"This is everyone's goal" Connell said, " ... we just feed off what (the coaches and parents) show us."