E.A. Sports Today

Anniston girls sidestep past pitfalls to win

UPDATED: Bulldogs’ inside game outduels Madison County’s outside shot

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — At this time of year Anniston girls coach Eddie Bullock tends to remind himself of all the bad things that could go wrong as opposed to the good things that could go right.

It’s because the bad things can get you beat and end your season, and should be avoided at all costs.

Bullock has been constantly reminded of the bad box-outs and poor free throw shooting that cost his team post-season advancement the last two years.

Those things didn’t happen Monday, though, as the Bulldogs beat Madison County 54-49 in the girls 5A Northeast Regional. They’ll meet Springville Thursday at 9 a.m. for the regional title.

The box-out was no trouble, as the Bulldogs (26-8) outrebounded Madison County 41-27 and scored 13 second-chance points. The free throws were no problem, either, as they hit 13 of 18 from the line, including four of six in the final 40 seconds when the Tigers were fouling to stop the clock.

“When you get in this time of the season you can’t beat good teams turning the ball over and not following what you do in practice on a daily basis,” Bullock said. “One box-out last year cost us a trip to the finals; we led Calera and we missed one box-out and it cost us the game. Two years ago, one box-out cost us a possible state championship against Oneonta when we played up here. That just goes through my head over and over and over.

“We’re a good rebounding team, but we didn’t cover the 3-point line like we should have and we made too many turnovers. … We’re a great free throw shooting team and that goes back to two years ago. We were up by two (on Oneonta) and my best free throw shooter had the ball in her hands and we missed a free throw at the end that possibly could have sealed it. I took it upon myself to say we didn’t practice free throws enough, so we spend 30 minutes, sometimes even an hour, daily every practice. I know that sounds exaggerated, but it’s the honest-to-God truth.

“You only learn from your past, so what I try to do as a coach, I don’t dwell on it, but I try to fix those mistakes that I may have made that cost them an opportunity to advance.”

Most of the current players were part of those teams that came up short and guard Raven Cooley said they have heard the coach’s reminders “quite often” during the season. It gets their attention.

“We basically come together as a team to try to form a defensive mentality so we won’t end up like that,” she said. “We basically do what we have to do to get to the final and get the ring.”

It was a matter of Anniston’s inside game against Madison County’s outside shooting.

The Bulldogs regularly got inside and scored 26 points in the paint. Kiyana Bullock ruled the inside for Anniston with 16 points and nine rebounds.

“Their post players, when we scouted them, they didn’t play good defense and I knew they were pretty young,” Eddie Bullock explained. “I lost my voice telling (Kiyana) to flash to the basketball. Flash because you are the option.

“Raven (Cooley) was hitting some nice jumpers, but you always want to go inside first. … We were trying to get as many points in the paint as we could. What we were hoping is they would start tightening down and once they did that it would open it up for Raven.”

Cooley hit three 3s in the first half and helped stake Anniston to a 29-19 lead at the break.

Madison County (21-9) stayed in it with the 3. Although they were 1 for 12 beyond the arc in the first half, the Lady Tigers were 7 of 14 in the second half. Sophomore Taylor Jennings, a 40-percent shooter from beyond the arc, found her stroke in his second half and hit all five of her 3s after going 0-for-6 in the first half.

Jennings finished with 15 points. Madison Baggett led all scorers with 22 points.

“I knew they had two girls who could shoot it,” Bullock said. “We’ve been practicing multiple defenses to keep them confused and we wanted to press them to slow it down.

“The block points were not going to hurt us. It was the 3 that was going to hurt us. I couldn’t get them to buy into it. I was just fortunate enough the clock ran out.”

It truly was a game of runs. Anniston scored the last eight points of the half to build its 10-point lead and extended it to 33-22 early in the third quarter. The Tigers bounced back with a 14-4 run to cut it to 37-36 going into the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs finally took control with an 11-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter and held on.

“I knew it was going to be tough,” Bullock said. “They beat Jacksonville so that sent me a message that it was going to be a tough game. Just glad to get the win out the way.”

Anniston 54, Madison County 49

MADISON COUNTY (21-9) – Madison Baggett 8-16 3-5 22, Shaynn Nance 1-7 0-0 2, Beth Maples 1-10 0-0 2, Taylor Jennings 5-11 0-0 15, Jasmine Baker 3-4 0-0 6, KaDaesha Cross 0-0 0-0 0, Rachel Hooker 0-0 0-0 0, Lindsay Pierce 0-0 0-0 0, Tatyana Smith 0-2 0-0 0, Morgan Haywood 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 19-51 3-5 49.

ANNISTON (26-8) – Miajah Bullock 2-10 5-5 9, Raven Cooley 4-9 2-4 13, Davia Palmer 4-5 0-0 8, Carsheuna Curry 1-3 2-2 4, Kiyana Bullock 6-11 4-7 16, Carlina Welch 1-1 0-0 2, Takia Shears 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 19-43 13-18 54.

Madison County 11 8 17 13 — 49
Anniston 15 14 8 17 — 54

3-point goals: Madison Co. 8-26 (Baggett 3-9, Nance 0-5, Jennings 5-11, Smith 0-1); Anniston 3-9 (M. Bullock 0-2, Cooley 3-6, Palmer 0-1). Rebounds: Madison Co. 22 (Baker 5), Anniston 41 (K. Bullock 9, Curry 7). Total fouls: Madison Co. 17, Anniston 7. Officials: Booker, Dixon, Putnam.

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