E.A. Sports Today

Back to the future

Anniston breaks out throwback uniforms, beats Lincoln to win area championship

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Schuessler Ware went deep into his “warehouse” Friday to bring his Anniston basketball team some extra inspiration for its biggest game of the season.

The thing you need to know about Ware is he’s an incessant packrat. His office in the bowels of the gym is filled with scrapbooks and memorabilia from his tenure as the Bulldogs’ coach. Leaning against the wall behind his desk is a poster with a detailed record of every team he has ever coached.

Back in another section of the building he stores all of the Bulldogs’ old uniforms, which his wife says he lovingly cleans, folds and packs. It was there the current players found inspiration to avenge an historic loss earlier in the season.

Wearing uniforms that were older than most of the players in them, the Bulldogs paid back Lincoln for an earlier loss 57-53 to claim the Class 5A Area 12 boys title.

When the Bears won in mid-December, it was their first win over Anniston in nearly 40 years. That’s almost twice as old as the uniforms the Bulldogs wore to beat them in the return.

“I told them I know you’re all tired, but I might surprise you tonight,” Ware said. “They said, ‘Why are you going to surprise us?’ They thought it was going to be something else new, but when they saw those, they were like ‘those are throwbacks.’”

The outfits were from the late 90s – before Ware even became the varsity coach. They were notable for the “Dawgs” across the jersey and the high shorts that featured a wide maroon-and-black stripe around the left leg and a bulldog logo on the right thigh.

“He didn’t let us see them at first,” center DeQuan Ross said. “He told us to undress and come into the room one-by-one. I was the first one. I actually thought twice about wearing them because of how little the shorts are. I had to put on my tights so it covered up my knees because I’ve never played basketball without shorts covering up my knees.

“It really motivated us to put them on, though, because they won state in these, I believe, and we just wanted to win in them. We’ve been watching the old film of when they’ve been winning the state and we told coach we’d give him a win tonight to host the area (tournament).”

There must have been some magic in those old uniforms Ware found, because when the Bulldogs placed them over their heads they began to … oh, wait, that’s a different song.

The Bulldogs (11-6) didn’t play their best, fighting through foul trouble all night, but the Bears had their troubles as well. They couldn’t get shots to fall – from the floor and at the line – and Anniston usually was there to grab the rebound. Lincoln was 9 of 20 from the free throw line and had only two 3-pointers.

“At the end of the night you cannot miss free throws and go two of 16 or 17 from 3-point range and beat anybody,” Lincoln coach Rush Rutledge said. “I thought we played well enough defensively to win the game and I think our offensive sets were fine, we just couldn’t get it in the hole.”

Davion Tippins and Emmanuel James each hauled in 12 rebounds for Anniston. Ross led the offense with 15 points, while Tray Croft had 14 and Marrio Dobbins 12. Dee Whiteside led Lincoln with 18 points.

Anniston never trailed from midway through the first quarter, but it was tight. The Bears would regularly get within one in the third quarter, but could never get the lead.

“We did not play well at all; it was a blessing to get this game tonight,” Ware said. “Not trying to find excuses, it might be the number of games we played this week, but I told them there are no excuses, you’re not old.”

Like their uniforms for the night.

Zay Caldwell’s 3-pointer with 41.6 seconds left drew Lincoln to within 55-53, but Croft made both ends of a one-and-one with 22.5 seconds left to push the lead back to four. The Bears missed a 3-pointer and a short put-back with 7.5 seconds left. They got the ball back, but Hakeem Ross stole the inbounds pass to seal the game.

“I tried to get coach to go man-to-man because I knew they were going to try to get a 3 off, but he didn’t want to do it,” Ross said. “So we went 2-3 and I saw there was nobody else open and I anticipated the pass and got it.”

The Bulldogs will host the area tournament and play St. Clair County in the first round. Lincoln and Alexandria will play in what could be an epic 2-3 game to keep their seasons alive.

“It’s nice that we won the area so we can have a home court advantage playing any team,” Hakeem Ross said. “They got Alexandria and we didn’t want to go out there because it’s a hot gym. We wanted to come in our home and beat everybody in our home.”

(Cover photo: The Anniston Bulldogs took on Lincoln Friday night wearing uniforms popular with their teams from the late 90s.)

Anniston 57, Lincoln 53

LINCOLN (12-6) – Isaac Davis 0 0-0 0, Zay Caldwell 4 3-5 13, Tyler Hemphill 2 0-0 4, Danny Bradford 0 0-0 0, K.J. Collins 0 0-0 0, Quin Carmichael 5 2-9 12, Dee Whiteside 7 4-6 18, L.J. Carmichael 3 0-0 6. Totals 21 9-20 53.

ANNISTON (11-6) – Marrio Dobbins 3 4-4 12, Tray Croft 5 3-4 14, Hakeem Ross 0 0-0 0, Davion Tippins 3 2-2 8, Tae Miller 0 0-0 0, DeQuan Ross 6 3-5 15, Justin Bagley 2 0-0 4, Emmanuel James 2 0-0 4. Totals 21 12-15 53.

Lincoln 13 15 9 16 — 53
Anniston 17 16 6 18 — 57

3-point goals: Lincoln 2 (Caldwell); Anniston 3 (Dobbins 2, Croft). Total fouls: Lincoln 16, Anniston 20. Officials: Walker, Holmes, Smith.

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