D161115 Sam Wallace (copy)

In three seasons at Elkmont, Sam Wallace has coached the girls from three wins last year to 21 so far this season. [JERONIMO NISA/DECATUR DAILY/FILE]

If there were an award for the surprise team in the area this season, the Elkmont girls would probably be runaway winners.

After going 3-26 last year, Sam Wallace’s team is 21-8 and playing in its first sub-regional since 2009 as soon as old man winter releases his grip on the local weather.

There are 21 area teams in sub-regional play. Girls teams were originally scheduled to play Monday. The boys were scheduled for Tuesday. Winners were to advance to regional semifinal games on Thursday and Friday.

Right now the teams are in a holding pattern. With schools closed, they can’t even practice.

“I guess maybe there is one positive from COVID and that it has taught us how to deal with a break like this,” Wallace said.

While players and coaches have been stuck at home, the team has used Zoom meetings to visit and study upcoming sub-regional foe Phil Campbell. The game is now scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m.

Wallace is in his third season at Elkmont after two seasons coaching the West Morgan boys. Elkmont won 11 in Wallace’s first season and 14 total in his first two seasons. Now, they are closing in on a program record for wins.

“For our kids this is really exciting,” Wallace said. “I’m glad that they are seeing all the hard work they have done is paying off.

“We really didn’t know what to expect this season. We played well at the end of last season, but we didn’t have a summer to work together and see what we really had.”

Not since the days when Bailee Robinson was the Class 3A Player of the Year in 2009 has there been this much excitement for Elkmont girls basketball.

Instead of having one player like Robinson lead the way, this group of Red Devils has taken the team aspect to a high level. In 29 games, eight girls have been the leading scorer on a team that averages 56 points with 16 assists a game.

“This is really an unselfish bunch,” Wallace said. “They actually love each other and care more about the team’s success than individual accomplishments.”

Elkmont starts three seniors: Thea Hamlin, Maggie Gant and Emeril Hand.

“I’m so happy for these three to be enjoying success after going through the last two years,” Wallace said. “They could have easily quit to do something else.”

Wallace said junior Morgan Morris is the team’s top defender. Sophomore Tylee Thomas is the team’s top 3-point shooter. She’s hit over 100 this season while shooting 39 percent.

“We believe in going fast and either shooting a layup, a 3 or a free throw,” Wallace said. “It works well for our girls.”

Coming off the bench are junior Meredith Christ and sophomores Abbie Broadway and Ella Beddingfield. Starring on the bench is senior Anna Grace Cook.

“She came to me before the season and said she wanted to be on the team,” Wallace said. “I told her I didn’t see a way for her to get much playing time. She said that wasn’t a concern. She just wanted to be part of the team. I’ve never had a better player on the bench. She’s been great for the team.”

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 david.elwell@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2395. Twitter @DD_DavidElwell.

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