It would appear that a high-school athletic program that has won three championships in five years would be setting an impossibly high standard from the outside.
Krystle Johnson, the Hoover girls basketball coach, believes it is routine on the outside.
Our goal is always to win state, said Johnson, whose 2021 championship was, indeed, her third in five years as the helm at her alma mater. We want to make sure we get better each day. You have to have a lot of people involved in your improvement if you want to be successful. If youre playing at your highest level, you will 100 percent achieve your goal.
Last seasons team finished a 32-1 campaign with 61-37 victory over Hewitt-Trussville in the championship game. The 2019-20 team went 32-3, but lost 47-44 in the title game at Spain Park. Hoover beat Hewitt-Trussville 47-33 to win the crown the year before, and finished 33-1. Johnsons first Buccaneers team lost the regional finals in 2018, 51-47 in overtime and finished 29-7.
Johnsons overall record at Hoover is 156-14, in case you werent counting. After five years at Huntsville, her overall score is 254-54.
Johnson has been a part of six girls basketball championships, including one as runner (she hit the winning free throws in ecstatic 42-40 victory over Decatur in 2001) and two as an assistant to Donnie Quinn. Hoover has seven girls' basketball titles, and Johnson is credited with having won six.
Johnson, who played at UCLA for two years before retiring at Alabama, said, "Its just the way we work." We run this program like a college program. We have a strength coach, and we do scouting and shooting. Whether you want to go to college or not, you must be dedicated to doing the work we do.
We demand a lot of them. Those who are dedicated to it, they want to continue the legacy we have here. She stated, "They dont want to be the team that breaks down and lets the program go in the wrong direction." They know about those who came before us and know that we put in the effort to secure that blue trophy, he added.
Four of the five starters from the state title game are in the program this season, which begins Monday with the official opening of practice for all Alabama High School Athletic Association teams.
Reniya Kelly, the Tournament Most Valuable Player and first-team Super All-State pick for points guard, is now back for her junior season. Kelly was a third-team Alabama Sports Writers Association All-State pick as he began his freshman year.
Johnson said that Riniya varsityd as an eighth-grader. Shes already won two state titles as a junior. Our 2019 team, when she was an eighth-grader, was pretty stuffed, so some of the reins to fill their shoes fell to her once they left. One of the reasons we brought her up to varsity was to get her used to it as a role player because we knew shed have to take responsibilities larger than her peers, says Williams.
Aniya Hubbard, who was a first-team selection as obama's sophomore year, has committed to play for Florida Atlantic. Hubbard has been able to play again after suffering her second ACL tear one in each knee. She tore her first as a sophomore and then tored the second this spring, Johnson said. Shes now fully cleared to play. She and Reniya were our top two scorers last season, and they have excellent on-court chemistry.
She and Reniya get the most recognition on this team, but we also have a lot of role players who assist. Kristen McMillan, a 6-foot-1 junior, is one of those. She has primarily played the 5 (post-position), but she is actually more of a small forward. Having her on the court with her versatility she can shoot the 3 and handle the ball is definitely important to us, said Jared.
Hubbard is one of three players who sustained ACL injuries during the off-season, according to Johnson, joining junior Jamiyah Hill and junior Ariana Peagler. Peaglers injury occurred on June 12, and she has yet to be cleared to return.
Johnson believes that this years team will have seven sophomores on the roster after being largely unrepentant last season, with only two seniors on their roster. Rachel Hager, a 6-2 post player last year, is now enrolled at Faulkner University. She missed much of the season after torn an ACL on Dec. 15. The other senior was starting guard Jada Knight, who is now a student at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan.
Johnson said she was also expecting a great season from Spain Park transfer Alanah Pooler, whose 5-10 year old is now playing volleyball. Johnson said with a chuckle that he hopes the team wins state and she will come to practice the next day. I believe shell bring an inside presence. Rachel fell ill last season, so we started a five-guard offense.
Hoover will have just six home games, three area games with Oak Mountain, Thompson, and Tuscaloosa County, along with a tough schedule. The Bucs will also host the Big Orange Classic during the Christmas break, play in a tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., before Thanksgiving, and in another in Atlanta the day after Turkey Day.
Hoover will also participate in a tournament at Hazel Green, setting up rematches with the four-time defending Class 6A state champion Bucs, the only team to defeat the Buc's in 2020-21.