E.A. Sports Today

Different kind of classic

Croft’s 16 seconds of mayhem elevates the excitement, gives Anniston the spark to close out Talladega

Anniston's Tray Croft (10) and Talladega's Jay Smoot, their teams' main scoring threats, don't get too far away from each other.

Anniston’s Tray Croft (10) and Talladega’s Jay Smoot, their teams’ main scoring threats, don’t get too far away from each other.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Basketball games between Anniston and Talladega are never dull.

Usually they’re played between teams scoring in the 70s, filled with lightning fast breaks and thunderous dunks that leave the crowd wanting more well after the final horn.

The first three and a half quarters of Friday’s installment were nothing like that. Forget somebody scoring in the 70s or breaking the scoreboard, the two teams here barely combined for 60.

But it’s Anniston-Talladega. Just wait for it.

Trey Croft turned in three spectacular plays in a span of 16 seconds late in the fourth quarter that flipped the emotional switch. His 3-pointer, steal and twirling layup broke a 40-all tie and provided the Bulldogs the spark to pull out a 55-48 win.

“That was real big,” Croft said. “My team needed me to hit some shots and I hit two big ones to put us back in the game and then we just played great defense after that.”

Croft led all scorers with 21 points and took over the power spot for Anniston that post DeQuan Ross had earlier in the quarter. Ross finished with 15 against Talladega wide-bodies Robert Houston and Jaelyn Russ inside.

The Bulldogs scored more points in the fourth quarter than they had in the first three combined. Croft, Ross and Willie Thomas combined for 26 of their 28 fourth-quarter points. Ross scored the first seven.

“They were big,” Ross said. “Last year when I saw it I got a little frustrated, but this year I stayed focused, fought through my frustration and played as hard as I could.”

The tide was starting to turn before Croft’s big exchange, he was just there to direct the flow.

Mikhael Smith’s layup with 2:53 to play finally drew Anniston even (40-40) after it trailed most of the game.

Jay Smoot then went to the line with the hopes returning Talladega to the lead. He missed both shots, but got to retake the second because of a lane violation on Anniston. He made it, but it was wiped out because the Tigers jumped.

That’s when Croft took charge and Talladega never got closer than four the rest of the game.

The free throw line definitely wasn’t the Tigers’ happy place on this night. They were just 4 of 22 from there for the game, but most painfully they were 3 of 19 in the fourth quarter and missed their last 13 in a row. Smoot missed his last 10.

“I believe at one time we missed 12 straight with the lead; I don’t believe I’ve ever missed 12 straight free throws with the lead,” Tigers coach Chuck Miller said. “When you miss free throws it’s going to lead into other parts of your game.

“He’s a pretty good free throw shooter; I don’t know what was going on. We just didn’t get it done when we needed to.”

Miller said it was a mistake to think this game could’ve gone down with some of the track meets of the past. This Talladega isn’t that seasoned.

“I don’t think right now we’re a team that needs to be in the 70s,” he said. “We’ve got no starters back. We’re playing three 10th-grade guards. They did a great job most of the night, but Anniston is a senior team.

“We should’ve finished off the game. If we’d hit free throws we’d have kept a six- or eight-point lead and won the game.”

Anniston 55, Talladega 48

TALLADEGA (4-4) – Fred Dickerson 1 0-0 2, Tyrese Scales 1 0-0 2, Jay Smoot 4 3-16 12, Jarvis McKenzie 1 0-0 2, Ashton Duncan 7 1-5 18, Jamonte Taymon 0 0-0 0, Demarco Truss 0 0-0 0, Wederrius Tuck 2 0-0 4, Robert Houston 2 0-1 4, Jaelyn Russ 2 0-0 4. Totals 20 4-22 48.

ANNISTON (3-1) – Marrio Dobbins 0 0-0 0, Tray Croft 7 3-6 21, Hakeem Ross 0 1-2 1, Davion Tippins 0 3-6 3, Willie Thomas 2 5-8 9, DeQuan Ross 5 5-8 15, Mikhael Smith 2 2-4 6, Tae Miller 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 19-34 55.

Talladega 12 12 9 15 — 48
Anniston 11 7 9 28 — 55

3-point goals: Talladega 4 (Smoot, Duncan 3). Anniston 4 (Croft 4). Fouled out: Scales, Tuck. Total fouls: Talladega 24, Anniston 23. Officials: Montgomery, Lemon, Robinson.

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