Pine Bluff head coach Loy Moore said overcoming adversity was the key to the Fillies’ success this season.
“We knew going into this season we were going to be extremely small,” Moore said. “We knew that was a weakness point.
“And most nights we had to overcome it.”
The tallest player on the floor for the Fillies was only 5-foot-8, so the game plan for most teams was to post up inside and take advantage of Pine Bluff’s lack of height.
“We knew every night, they were going to try to post us up in some way,” Moore said. “They were going to post up their big girl but after a while, it became a benefit for us.”
Despite their lack of size, the Fillies finished 21-6 and 11-3 in the 7A/6A-South, earning Moore the Southeast Arkansas Girls Coach of the Year honor.
“This is a competitive group,” Moore said. “Obviously they have some weaknesses, and there is not a lot of teams that feared us.
“But we were very competitive, old school, and like to win.”
The Fillies have won 46 games the last two seasons and did a lot of it without much experience.
“Ajia Richardson stepped up and had such a great senior year,” Moore said. “Our offense stepped up and ran through her.”
Richardson was the only senior on the team, but a lot of the team played last season and Moore felt like the team had good experience around her.
“We had a veteran group,” Moore said. “Last year, we were forced to play a lot of sophomores and so they have had a lot of experience.”
Richardson averaged 16 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals a game. Little Rock Hall eliminated the Fillies in the quarterfinals of the 6A state tournament.
“We practiced hard and we motivate each other,” Richardson said. “We were more than just teammates. It was like a sisterhood.”
Richardson said most of the team had been playing together since junior high.
“We knew each other’s strengths and there was a certain kind of energy,” Richardson said. “We wanted to win for one another.”
Richardson said Moore is deserving of the award because he is so much more than just a coach.
“He pushes us daily,” Richardson said. “He gives us motivation and he interacts with us.
“He has a dry sense of humor and he is such a nice person.”
Richardson said one example of Moore’s sense of humor is whenever the team enters a restaurant in full basketball gear and the waiter asks if they are a basketball team, Moore usually responds with “No. We are a swim team.”
“It takes a little bit to get know him,” Richardson said, “but once you do, you find out he is a pretty great guy.”
Pine Bluff lost to Benton in the regular-season finale, which dropped the Fillies down to a No. 3 seed. They might have finished with a No. 2 seed or maybe even a No. 1 seed if they had won.
Moore said he was a little disappointed with how the Fillies finished this year.
“I felt like we could have gone a little further if we had gotten a better draw,” Moore said. “But Hall was a little better than us.
“It was a tough draw to get them that early.”
Moore said he thought Pine Bluff was capable of going to the semifinals.
“In the second round, we just didn’t shoot the ball well,” Moore said. “We couldn’t put the ball in the hole in the second half.”