E.A. Sports Today

On guard: Anniston dumps Saks

Strong play by guards sends Bulldogs past another ranked opponent, into County Tournament semifinals

Anniston guards Marrio Dobbins (4), Hakeem Ross (11) and Tray Croft (10) frustrated Saks with their scoring and ball-handling skills Tuesday night.

Anniston guards Marrio Dobbins (4), Hakeem Ross (11) and Tray Croft (10) frustrated Saks with their scoring and ball-handling skills Tuesday night.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Davion Tippins might be a little biased, but after Anniston dribbled rings around Parker in the fourth quarter and overtimes of their game last Wednesday night the junior forward didn’t hesitate in saying that was why his team had “the best guards in the county.”

The Bulldogs proved it again Tuesday night.

Anniston got plenty of sure-handed play – and scoring — from long-time backcourt partners Tray Croft, Marrio Dobbins and Hakeem Ross and beat third-ranked Saks 60-52 to reach the semifinals of the Calhoun County Boys Basketball Tournament.

Croft scored 27 points, Dobbins 17 and all three guards frustrated the Wildcats with crafty dribbling and ball handling skills. Dobbins had only one turnover, Croft had two.

Throughout the second half and particularly late in the game the ball stayed in their hands and they seemed to take great delight messing with the Saks defenders, faking moves into the paint only to stutter-step back out and start the process all over again. They were hardly fazed by Saks’ trap in the second half, regularly finding an outlet to escape.

“That’s what shows the best guards in the county right there, when the ball’s in a player’s hand at crunch time,” Dobbins said.

“Me and my backcourt guards know that we’re the best and people just take us lightly and we come out and show them that we ain’t (what they think),” Croft said. “We’re the best guards in the state, in my opinion.”

Anniston coach Schuessler Ware, ever mindful of keeping his players’ heads in check, wouldn’t go that far “at this point” in the season. But he’s not been opposed at what he’s been seeing, either.

In last week’s win over Alexandria – their semifinal opponent Friday – Croft and Dobbins combined for 35 points. In the low-scoring double-overtime win over Parker, they all made free throws to seal it. And in the area title-clinching win over Lincoln, Croft and Dobbins combined for 26. Ross doesn’t do a lot of scoring, he just keeps things moving.

“It’s all about accountability,” he said. “You know your job; you’ve got to do it. We tell them that all the time.”

Saks has a quality set guards, too, but their approach is a lot different. The Wildcats are known for their sharp outside shooting — “they don’t shoot just the 3,” Ware said, “they shoot the 6, way out there” – but their eye was dull in the second half.

They hit four 3s in the first 10 minutes of the game to open a 21-8 lead in the second quarter and had six in the first half that sent them into the break with an 11-point lead. But they had only two in the second half – one in each quarter and both by Quen Williams.

Croft and Dobbins, meanwhile, lit it up. They had 21 of the Bulldogs’ 22 points in the third quarter and all but three of their 38 points in the second half. Croft had 20 in the half and Dobbins 15.

The game was tied at 51, and then Anniston outscored the Wildcats 9-1 over the final 3:59 to win and beat the third ranked opponent in their last five games. Croft and Dobbins had all nine of the Bulldogs’ points. His first bucket in the run came on a drive after he dazzled the Wildcats with some fancy dribbling around midcourt for almost a minute.

“Croft can do it all,” Saks coach Jonathan Miller said. “He can shoot it. He can handle the ball. He makes good decisions most of the time. He’s one of the top guards in the county, no doubt. And Dobbins is quick and shifty. They’re two guys who are tough to guard … and we didn’t slow them down much in the third and fourth quarters.”

Anniston 60, Saks 52

SAKS — Makel Taylor 3 2-5 9, Darion Coleman 5 2-2 15, Devin Harris 3 0-1 6, Quin Smith 0 0-0 0, Jaylen Britt 1 0-0 3, Davieuntae Booker 0 0-0 0, Monty Young 4 2-3 10, Quen Williams 3 0-1 9, Demetrius Powell 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 6-12 52.

ANNISTON — Marrio Dobbins 4 8-9 17, Tray Croft 10 4-6 27, Hakeem Ross 1 0-0 2, Davion Tippins 2 1-2 5, DeQuan Ross 4 0-0 9, Justin Bagley 0 0-0 0, Emmanuel James 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 13-17 60.

Anniston 8 14 22 16 — 60
Saks 13 18 11 10 — 52

3-point goals: Anniston 5 (Dobbins, Croft 3, D. Ross); Saks 8 (Taylor, Coleman 3, Britt, Williams 3). Total fouls: Anniston 13, Saks 16. Fouled out: D. Ross, Coleman. Technical fouls: H. Ross. Officials: Washington, Allen, Kelley.

(All games at Pete Mathews Coliseum, Jacksonville)

First-round games
No. 8 Jacksonville 70, No. 9 Jacksonville Christian 38
No. 5 Saks 73, No. 12 Pleasant Valley 20
No. 4 Anniston 74, No. 13 Ohatchee 30
No. 3 Sacred Heart 70, No. 14 Donoho 29
No. 6 Oxford 67, No. 11 Faith Christian 36
No. 10 Piedmont 62, No. 7 Weaver 59
No. 2 White Plains 80, No. 15 Wellborn 70

Second-round games
No. 1 Alexandria 71, Jacksonville 60
Anniston 60, Saks 52
Sacred Heart vs. Oxford, Wednesday, 5 p.m.
Piedmont vs. White Plains, Wednesday, 8 p.m.

Semifinal games
Alexandria vs. Anniston winner, Friday, 5:30 p.m.
Sacred Heart-Oxford winner vs. Piedmont-White Plains winner, Friday, 8:30 p.m.

Championship game
Saturday, 8 p.m.

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