E.A. Sports Today

Bearcats miss chance at finals

Failing to finish costs Weaver a chance to play in the Tallapoosa title game for second year in a row

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

TALLAPOOSA, Ga. — Weaver’s dream of playing in the Hilburn-Patterson Haralson County Invitational championship game for the second straight year came up short when its alter ego showed up for the final three minutes of Tuesday’s semifinal.

The Bearcats fell to Pepperell 56-54 after holding an eight-point lead with three minutes to play.

The loss snapped a five-game winning streak and dropped the Bearcats (6-8) into today’s 4:30 p.m. third-place game against Spring Garden. Pepperell (5-5), which won its tournament opener on a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left, will play Bowdon for the title.

“We just didn’t finish,” Weaver coach Daryl Hamby said. “Our problem is we’re too Jekyll & Hyde right now. Even with the success we had in the Gadsden tournament (the Riley Whitaker Classic they won) we fought through some Jekyll-and-Hydeness. That’s what we are.

“We had a 10-point lead. I preached don’t look at the clock and play the same way. We literally had guys looking at the clock and then we just laid down and made probably some of the dumbest passes you could imagine … that turned into points. We thought the game was won.”

After a tight first half with five lead changes, the Bearcats opened the second half with a flurry that would give them the eight-point lead they’d carry most of the half. The lead was 10 with five minutes to play that had the Dragons hanging their heads, and that’s when the Bearcats lightened up.

Pepperell’s comeback started just inside three minutes to go with back-to-back 3-pointers by Rickey Campbell and Austin Strickland. Weaver stopped the run with its last point of the game — a free throw by London Knight — but the Dragons got it back within one with 1:24 to play.

Pepperell took the lead 55-54 on a pair of free throws by Campbell with 41 seconds left. Weaver worked the clock for a final shot, but Delo Forbes’ layup in traffic with 5.6 seconds left fell short. The Bearcats fouled on the rebound.

Marquedon Watkins missed the free throw, but Campbell saved the rebound from going out of bounds with 2.8 seconds left. Weaver fouled on the inbounds play. Maloch Wilson made the first free throw, missed the second, but there wasn’t enough time for the Bearcats to get a good final shot.

“It just feels depressing because we know we could have had this victory,” Bearcats senior Malik Arnold said. “We were up by 10 and all we had to do was no turnovers and execute like we wanted to.

“We see the scoreboard and people, when they see the scoreboard, they tend to try to relax and take it easy because we’re up by 10, but in reality we need to not look at the scoreboard, pretend like we’re down so we can play a little better.

“We’ve got to come back tomorrow and win this one tomorrow. Third place is better than no place.”

Arnold led all scorers with 19 points. Craig Copeland had 11 and Jalen Heath 10. The Bearcats played the game without Paul Hubbard (ankle) and lost Gio Mosley in the second quarter to a hard fall.

“We’re at a crossroads,” Hamby said. “Do we believe in each other or which way to do we go? That’s where we’re at right now. We’ll rebound from this, we’ve got to; we’ve got no other choice. We’ve got a lot of basketball left to play.”

Pepperell 56, Weaver 54

WEAVER (6-8) – Delo Forbes 0 0-0 0, Jalen Heath 5 0-2 10, Craig Copeland 5 1-4 11, London Knight 2 4-6 8, Dalton Hamby 0 0-0 0, R.J. Wooden 1 2-2 4, Maurice Goodman 1 0-2 2, Gio Mosley 0 0-0 0, Malik Arnold 5 9-12 19, Ducky Morris 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 16-28 54.

PEPPERELL (5-5) – Tae Hammond 3 0-0 6, Thomas Eddy 4 0-0 9, Rickey Campbell 5 3-4 14, Austin Strickland 2 0-0 5, Brian Vincent 0 0-0 0, Cade Alford 2 0-0 4, Kobe Thomas 0 0-0 0, Rodney Sullivan 3 2-4 9, Marquedon Watkins 0 1-4 1, Maloch Wilson 3 2-4 8. Totals 22 8-16 56.

Weaver 5 21 14 14 — 54
Pepperell 11 11 13 21 — 56

3-point goals: Pepperell 4 (Eddy, Campbell, Strickland, Sullivan). Fouled out: Copeland, Strickland. Total fouls: Weaver 17, Pepperell 21.

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