E.A. Sports Today

Guard returns, sparks Bulldogs

Updated: Croft scores 20 in return to Anniston lineup

Alexandria basketball coach Jason Johnson tries to get somebody's attention during a timeout late in Tuesday night's game with Anniston.

Alexandria basketball coach Jason Johnson tries to get somebody’s attention during a timeout late in Tuesday night’s game with Anniston.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

ALEXANDRIA — With no slight intended towards the players he was partnered with in the interim, Marrio Dobbins missed his backcourt mate the last two games and was ”absolutely” glad he was back on the floor Tuesday night.

So were the Anniston Bulldogs.

Tray Croft returned after missing the last two and a half games with a concussion and teamed with Dobbins to lift the Bulldogs over Alexandria 65-58.

Croft scored a game-high 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. Dobbins had 15 points. Willie Thomas also scored in double figures (10), while Davion Tippins had nine points and 11 rebounds.

“It was good to have him back,” Dobbins said. “We were lacking guards so we needed him. We just needed him back. It’s great to have him back, that’s all I can say.”

Croft and Dobbins were the Bulldogs’ opening-night backcourt against Talladega, and were having a grand time of it in the first half until Croft took a knee to the head – after scoring 16 points — and didn’t play the rest of the night in an eventual one-point loss. He remained out for the Pelham and Sylacauga games and although he returned to practice Monday was cleared for Tuesday’s area opener only a few hours before opening tip.

“It felt good to come back and play with my teammates and get that W,” Croft said. “I missed playing with them, playing as a team and having fun.”

Anniston coach Schuessler Ware agreed the Bulldogs are “really effective” when Croft and Dobbins are on the floor together, even though Dobbins is just coming up from the B Team this season.

They were particularly effective in the fourth quarter against the Valley Cubs. They combined for 13 points in the period, including 11 of the Bulldogs’ last 16, but also had an impact moving the ball and creating turnovers. Dobbins had three steals to go with his points despite being in foul trouble since early in the second quarter.

“It was a very important role they both played tonight,” Ware said. “They played more together in this game than they had been. They knew that was something they had to do if we were going to be effective at the end played. If the others would come on and grow we’ll be all right.”

The Bulldogs (2-2) rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to make it a close game in the second half. Thomas’s 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter – his only field goal of the night – got them within one entering the fourth quarter and Croft gave them their first lead since 4-3 with a left-handed layup with 6:45 to play.

They outscored the Valley Cubs 7-2 in the final 1:29 – all from the foul line — to move comfortably ahead. In fact, the Bulldogs scored their last nine points of the game from the line, were 14 for 18 from there in the fourth quarter and 23 of 35 for the game.

“They made their foul shots and we had some key turnovers down the stretch,” Cubs coach Jason Johnson said. “Their dribble penetration hurt us a lot. They’re just quick.”

Alexandria (1-1) built as much as a nine-point lead in the first half on the strength of its outside shooting. They hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter and four in the half before taking a 31-24 lead into the break. Luke Tucker led the Valley Cubs with 14 points, Alton Davis had 13 and Nick Porter had 10.

Anniston 65, Alexandria 58

ANNISTON (2-2) – Tray Croft 8 3-4 20, Hakeem Ross 0 0-0 0, Davion Tippins 2 5-7 9, Willie Thomas 1 7-12 10, Marrio Dobbins 4 7-11 15, DeQuan Ross 2 1-1 5, Quin Burton 1 0-0 2, Emmanuel James 2 0-0 4. Totals 20 23-35 65.

ALEXANDRIA (1-1) – Chance Williams 0 1-2 1, Austin Wells 0 0-0 0, Nick Porter 4 1-3 10, Riley Shaw 2 2-3 8, Alton Davis 4 5-6 13, Tyrelle Gay 2 0-2 5, Caleb Young 0 0-0 0, Ronnie Royal 0 0-2 0, Marcus Swink 1 0-0 2, Luke Tucker 5 3-4 14, Dakota Kelley 2 0-0 5. Totals 20 12-22 58.

Anniston 8 16 19 22 — 65
Alexandria 14 17 13 14 — 58

3-point goals: Anniston 2 (Croft, Thomas); Alexandria 6 (Porter, Shaw 2, Gay, Tucker, Kelley). Total fouls: Anniston 20, Alexandria 23. Technical fouls: D. Ross. Fouled out: James, Kelley.

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