E.A. Sports Today

Lady Lions, Stephens get their area crown

Faith Christian wins first area title in girls basketball with a 48-39 victory over Ragland; Stephens goes for 29

Faith Christian's Madison Stephens drives to the basket during Friday's area championship game. Below, coach Bradley Dawson makes a point during a time out. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Faith Christian’s Madison Stephens drives to the basket during Friday’s area championship game. Below, coach Bradley Dawson makes a point during a time out. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

When Bradley Dawson walked into the Faith Christian gym as girls basketball coach for the first time three years ago the first thing he noticed was there were no banners for girls basketball hanging on the walls, and he thought that was wrong.

There were banners – for boys basketball, volleyball, soccer and cheer – but none for his sport. He knew there was talent in the system and he promised their best budding player at the time, Madison Stephens, that she would have a banner raised before she graduated.

They can bring it any day now as Dawson, Stephens and the Lady Lions delivered the school’s first area championship in girls basketball since moving to the AHSAA Friday in a 48-39 win over Ragland.

“My first year with the variety girls I walked in the gym and didn’t see a banner hanging on the wall,” Dawson said. “I was kind of mad. Why don’t we have a banner; we have talent, we need one. That was our goal. I made a promise to Madison that we were going to get one before she graduated.

“She deserves to go out as a champion. She deserves to win an area championship, to be a part of history. She’s Faith Christian basketball history summed up.”

With that win, the Lady Lions (10-10) get to play for their first berth in the Northeast Regional Monday when they host Talladega County Central in their second-ever subregional game in school history. They lost at Skyline two years ago.

Stephens led the Lady Lions’ historic victory with 29 points – giving her 1,644 for her career — and was the tournament MVP. She and sophomore Logan Boyd helped maintain the lead when Ragland drew within one early in the fourth quarter and together with Sydnee Johnson they helped the Lady Lions pull away for good.

“This is exciting,” Stephens said. “When (Dawson) first came he said I want to do something with y’all. He said I know y’all probably don’t believe in yourself, but y’all can go places. He said, Madison you will have a banner before you graduate; we’re going to hang a banner. Tonight that came true and it just feels real good.

“He hugged me after the game and said I told you you would do it. He was right.”

At the start of the game it looked as if the Lady Lions were going to breeze to that banner, but in the middle of the game not so much.

Faith scored the first eight points of the game with Stephens hitting two 3s, but Ragland climbed back in it prompting this audible admonishment to Stephens from Dawson: If you don’t score we don’t win. She promptly hit a layup and scored three more points to give the Lady Lions a 24-13 halftime lead.

Things got “a little hairy” for them in the third quarter when Ragland got it to 26-25 and Stephens wasn’t scoring, but Dawson wasn’t nervous because, he said, it “eases the nerves when you know you have the best player on the court.”

“I kind of heard that but it didn’t sink in and then he sat me down and said do you realize the ball wasn’t in your hand for like three whole minutes when we were scoreless,” Stephens said. “He said you have to demand the ball; I don’t care if you have to run and steal it from your own teammates, you need to get the ball in your hands because you can control the speed of the game. I didn’t realize that, but when he told me that I did and I kind of picked it up a little bit.”

Stephens and Boyd then hit back-to-back 3s for more breathing room and after Ragland got within three moments later Boyd kept them at a distance. The Lady Purple Devils got it back to 36-35, then Stephens coverted her steal into a layup, Johnson hit four quick points and now Faith was up seven with 3:08 to play.

“I had to knock down shots because this is Madison’s final chance to get the area championship,” Boyd said. “It’s exciting for us all, especially since its Madison’s senior season. To be the first team to come in and win the area championship for the school is really great for us as a program. We wanted it so bad we came out and we played the way that we know we could.”

Faith headmaster Bob Phillips called adding this first girls basketball area title “huge” for the school. Its girls program has been down for several years and he gave Dawson full credit for bringing it back. While he’s at it, he could give Stephens an assist.

“Our girls program has been down for about five years since we lost Tina Snellgrove to White Plains,” Phillips said. “It’s been a long climb back and I give Bradley Dawson full credit; he has really dedicated himself to this program. It’s a year-round sport now.

“I really feel like this is kind of an end point because Madison has been a big leader in bringing us back, but it’s also a beginning because we have so many young players who have a lot of future. I really think this is kind of a turning point for our girls program.”

Faith Christian 48, Ragland 39

RAGLAND – Shyann Hazelwood 3 8-8 16, Tyasia Howard 1 2-4 4, Alexis Kelley 2 0-1 4, Savannah Kay 2 0-0 4, Katie Echols 2 1-2 5, Makenzie Campbell 2 2-3 6. Totals 12 13-18 39.

FAITH CHRISTIAN – Logan Boyd 3 3-4 10, Shelley Phillips 1 0-0 2, Emily Sills 1 1-2 3, Madison Stephens 10 6-8 29, Sarah Kate McVeigh 0 0-0 0, Kristen Covington 0 0-0 0, Sydnee Johnson 1 2-3 4, C.J. Setters 0 0-0 0, Regan Crosby 0 0-0 0, Zana Christjohn 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 12-17 48.

Ragland 7 6 16 10 — 39
Faith Christian 14 10 10 14 — 48

3-point goals: Ragland 2 (Hazelwood 2); Faith 4 (Boyd, Stephens 3). Fouled out: Campbell. Total fouls: Ragland 14, Faith 15. Officials: Paige, Hardnett, Park.


Madison Stephens (MVP), Logan Boyd, Regan Crosby, Faith Christian; Grace Compton, Phoebe Wallace, Appalachian; Shyann Hazlewood, Makenzie Campbell, Ragland; Anna Marie Woodfin, Donoho; Allasha Dudley, Sacred Heart.


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