Byne girls hoops team open playoffs today, one win from Final Four (Web exclusive)

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Brittany Conley did not play high school basketball. However, as the girls coach at Byne Christian School -- a team that has just seven total players --- her squad opens the GCAA Class AA state tourney today at home. The Lady Saints, who host Killian Hill, are 15-10 and will advance to the Final Four Feb. 12-13 with a win.

"I think the last time Byne reached the Final Four in girls basketball was the early 1990s," said Conley, who did walk on one year as a basketball player at Darton. "This team was fourth in the region (2-AA) last year and was second this year. This is kind of a big move for us."

Conley, who is finishing her associate's degree at Darton, said the team's lone senior, point guard Hannah Hughes (seven points a game); will be one of several key components for a possible state title run.

"A big key for us is we're working as a unit," said Conley, who graduated from Sherwood Christian in 2007. "We don't have a very high scorer every game, but everyone usually scores seven, eight or 10 points per game so that makes it hard for others to defend us. We're on the same page and we get a lot done."

Wanting to be a full-time coach once she earns a bachelor's degree, Conley said she is proud of what her team has accomplished, beating GISA school Randolph Southern for the first time during the regular season.

And count Darton coach Laura Blackwell as one of Conley's fans.

"She played for me and I just admire her for wanting to go and work with the girls and go through the trials and tribulations of having just seven players, teaching them how to play and work as a team," Blackwell said. "I'm just proud she took these girls and worked with them and they've improved. It's been exciting."

Conley still keeps in touch with Blackwell and says she has learned a lot from the longtime Lady Cavs coach.

Now, she's hoping it will pay off in the postseason.

"She's influenced me tremendously," Conley said. "I call her all the time for advice. She gives me idea after idea. She's underneath it all."