E.A. Sports Today

Cubs win, Cubs win

Gay’s big play sends Alexandria past Anniston, into first boys final since 2007

Alexandria's Tyrelle Gay (22) brings the ball upcourt with Anniston's Tray Croft in pursuit. On the cover, Alton Davis (20) and Luke Tucker (30) react to a big play in the Valley Cubs' victory. (Photos by Chad Barnett)

Alexandria’s Tyrelle Gay (22) brings the ball upcourt with Anniston’s Tray Croft in pursuit. On the cover, Alton Davis (20) and Luke Tucker (30) react to a big play in the Valley Cubs’ victory. (Photos by Chad Barnett)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — The Alexandria players had just tumbled into the locker room and were ready to get their post-game celebration started when they realized somebody was missing.

Tyrelle Gay was still out the floor with coach Jason Johnson doing his media responsibility. The Valley Cubs, who by now had come out of the dressing room en masse to search for their teammate, weren’t going to start anything without him. He was the architect of the whole thing.

It was Gay’s steal at midcourt and layup with 10.3 seconds left that gave the top-seeded Cubs a 58-56 thriller over Anniston for their first spot in the Calhoun County Boys Tournament final in eight years. They will play Sacred Heart in Saturday’s title game.

“I’ll remember that play probably the rest of my life.” Gay said. “We just defeated the defending champions of the county, they beat us two times this year, and me getting that steal and hitting the game-winning shot to put us in the championship can give us some momentum going on to the rest of the season.”

The play gave Alexandria the lead but the Cubs still had some work to do before punching their ticket. They had to wait out Marrio Dobbins’ long 3-pointer that looked good from the Alexandria bench but missed the mark before touching off their celebration.

“We got the break there at the end and … survived a shot that sometimes we don’t survive,” Johnson said. “We’ve lost a couple games like that. This group of seniors lost about four or five games on a last-second throw, buzzer-beater, half-court, bank shots, all kinds of different stuff. We were just kind of holding our breath on that last shot by them.”

Anniston had beaten the Cubs twice before to win their area championship. The difference in this one was their shot was falling after going through a small shooting slump and if they hadn’t Johnson was convinced “we would have been blown out of the building” as well as Tray Croft and the Bulldogs shot the ball.

Croft led all scorers with 27 points that included six of the Bulldogs’ nine 3-pointers.

Feeling confident after what the players called a “good shoot-around” earlier in the day, the Cubs hit 10 3-pointers in the game — and every one of them seemed to come at a key moment. Four players had at least two. Nick Porter and Gay each had three.

“I was relieved – a lot,” Porter said. “It felt so good. It’s just crazy, it all happened at once. It was one of those dream things that you always dream about.”

The Cubs had a nine-point lead midway through the third quarter, but the Bulldogs refused to fold. They scored the last nine points of the quarter to send the game into the fourth tied at 46.

The game was tied four times in the fourth quarter, the last at 56-56.

Anniston’s usually sure-handed guards were doing their best to work the clock down to the final shot. Croft and Hakeem Ross got tangled up at midcourt, Gay stuck his hand in, knocked the ball away from Ross and took off for the layup that put the Cubs ahead.

“I saw they were fumbling the ball around, but I waited until the last chance to go in there and try to take a steal and see what I could do,” Gay said. “I came up with the steal; I just wanted to draw a foul. I really wasn’t worried about making the shot, I was trying to go to the free throw line and try to win the game.”

It’s the second time he stuck the dagger into the Bulldogs. It was his interception at the goal line that sealed the Cubs’ win over Anniston during this past football season.

When the players all made it together in the locker room Friday, the Cubs mobbed their conquering hero. They piled on Gay in celebration and even though he took a couple pokes in the eye it’s a feeling he says he’ll never outgrow.

“I could get used to that,” he said.

Alexandria 58, Anniston 56

ANNISTON (13-8) — Marrio Dobbins 1 1-2 3, Tray Croft 9 3-4 27, Hakeem Ross 2 0-0 5, Davion Tippins 3 0-0 7, DeQuan Ross 4 1-3 10, Justin Bagley 0 0-0 0. Emmauel James 2 0-0 4. Totals 21 5-9 56.

ALEXANDRIA (18-4) – Chance Williams 0 0-0 0, Austin Wells 0 2-2 2, Nick Porter 6 0-0 15, Riley Shaw 0 0-0 0, Alton Davis 2 5-9 9, Tyrelle Gay 4 0-0 8, Caleb Young 1 0-0 2, Ronnie Royal 0 0-0 0, Luke Tucker 4 0-0 10, Dakota Kelley 3 1-1 9. Totals 20 8-12 58.

Anniston 15 13 18 10 — 56
Alexandria 12 21 13 12 — 58

3-point goals: Anniston 9 (Croft 6, H. Ross, Tippins, D. Ross); Alexandria 10 (Porter 4, Gay 3, Tucker 2, Kelley 2). Total fouls: Anniston 13, Alexandria 14. Officials: Robinson, Lemon, Warren.

(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 55, Oxford 33
White Plains 67, Piedmont 45

Semifinal games
Alexandria 58, Anniston 56
Sacred Heart 71, White Plains 66

Championship game
Alexandria (18-4) vs. Sacred Heart (18-8), Saturday, 8 p.m.

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