The top-seeded Lady Warriors tip off the GISA Class A state tournament today in a 7 p.m. contest against No. 4 Twiggs Academy at South Georgia College, and Barkley is eager to start that march toward a title.
“We’ve tried to talk to them all year about going in as the No. 1 seed. That gives you the best opportunity to go as far as you want to go. The girls worked hard all year and we battled and we got that one seed,” Barkley said. “Now we’ve had a week off, which I think is good just to get your legs back under you and kind of focus on fundamental things that you need to work on. And then this week we’ve been working on the team we’re playing, Twiggs Academy. So I feel like we’re going into it prepared and rested.”
Behind a veteran squad with plenty of postseason experience, Oak Mountain (23-4) shouldn’t get caught up by anything it goes up against or the pressure of performing on the state’s biggest stage.
“I think it’s big because I can always go back to, for me, one year ago. But they can go back two or three years ago. We got down there last year and we were a little sluggish, and so I want to go down there and be ready to go,” Barkley said. “That’s something they can reflect back on. It’s not like, ‘I wonder what we need to do?’ They’ve been there, they already know what they need to do and hopefully that will be to our advantage.”
Twiggs Academy features a solid point guard and a few other quality players, but Barkley said if his ball club plays its brand of basketball, it should be moving on to the round of eight.
“That’s what I was telling them the other day. We don’t want to change what we’ve been doing. We want to do what we’ve been doing. We’re an up-tempo team. We want to get up and down the floor and press and make the game fast and I think that will run in our favor. We’ve got a lot of quick girls. With us running, Jessi [Fuller] gets lost in the corners a lot and teams forget about her and it gets her open for a shot. Then if they’re worried about her, Meredith [Sammon] can attack the rim and Jordan [Francis] is starting to come on attacking the rim. So fast pace really works for us,” Barkley said.
Barkley said a trio of squads from Region 3-A — Crisp Academy, Fullington Academy and Georgia Christian — are teams that can make some noise in the 16-team state bracket, but the OMA coach also believes his girls can be the team hoisting the state championship trophy when all is said and done on March 2.
“That region is pretty tough. So besides us, I’d say they’re the front-runners,” Barkley said.