HARTSELLE — The basketball season for the Brewer girls is off to a typical start.
The Patriots are 3-0 after a 58-25 victory over Buckhorn on Tuesday in the Encore Classic at Hartselle High. Brewer used six 3-point baskets in the first half to build a 32-14 lead at halftime.
The individual scoring was typical Brewer with the numbers being spread around. McCarley Northway led with 14. Madisen Adams scored 10 and Jacie Andrews had nine. Hope West, Chloe Danylo and Hannah Graves each had seven.
But at second glance, this not your typical Brewer girls team. There’s a new head coach. After two years as an assistant to Ron Smith, Jeff Andrews is now the one pacing the floor in front of the team bench. The 1990 Brewer graduate understands he has some big shoes to fill.
“When you walk in the gym and see all the trophies and pictures of the All-State players, it’s a bit overwhelming,” Andrews said.
Smith became head coach in 2015 when hall of fame coach Ricky Allen retired after 24 seasons. Allen turned Brewer girls basketball into one of the top programs in the state. He left with 604 career wins, the Class 5A state championship in 2012, 17 Morgan County Tournament championships, five regional championships and 15 area championships. Nine of his players received All-State honors.
Smith kept the program at the high level where Allen placed it. The Patriots won last year’s county tournament on the way to a regional appearance.
Now it’s up to Andrews to keep the program moving in the right direction. If experience means anything, it is a good time to take over the program. The roster has three seniors: Northway, Madisen and Graves. The junior class has experience with point guard Jacie Andrews, the head coach’s daughter, Evaiah Burrows, Leisha Steger and Danylo. West is an eighth grader who will play a lot this season.
“We do have a lot of experience back, but it’s who's not here that makes a big difference,” Andrews said. “We lost Shyan Flack, who averaged 16 points. She was our true post player. Whenever we couldn’t score from the outside, we would post her up and throw the ball inside to her. We don’t have that type player this year.”
Flack, The Daily’s 5A-6A Player of the Year, is a freshman at Montevallo.
“Another big loss was Henslee Brindley,” Andrews said. “She did a lot of the stuff that doesn’t show up in the stat book.”
Brindley now plays at Wallace State.
“We are going to be a guard-oriented team with no true inside player,” Andrews said. “We will have to push the pace, stretch the floor and hit the outside shot. That’s the challenge we face while this team is trying to feel me out as a head coach.”
With Andrews sliding over one spot on the bench to head coach, Brewer needed a new assistant coach. Andrews found a volunteer for the job in Malerie Walker. She was Malerie Drinkard when she played her final season for Brewer in 2014-2015.
“I’m excited to be part of the program again,” Walker said. “I really missed the game.”
Andrews and Walker are on a mission to give girls basketball in the Brewer feeder schools a boost in the right direction. The five schools that feed into Brewer are Cotaco, Union Hill, Eva, Lacey’s Spring and Sparkman. The number of girls playing basketball at those schools is down.
“Eva hasn’t even had a team for the last two years,” Walker said.
Andrews has made a point to routinely visit each feeder school, watch practice and offer assistance to their coaches.
“The feeder schools are the lifeblood of our program,” Andrews said. “If we don’t do something now, it’s going to hit us at the varsity level real soon. It’s pay now or pay later.”
There are plans in the works to organize an AAU team that would be just for players from the feeder schools. Walker wants to bring back the summer camps at Brewer that gave girls like her a glimpse of the program they longed to be a part of.
“We have a good group of girls in the seventh and eighth grade,” Andrews said. “Below that, we have some work to do to keep the program at the high standard that everybody at Brewer expects.”