E.A. Sports Today

Bulldogs seal the deal

Anniston locks up the No. 1 seed in its area with balanced scoring, strong defense

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

LINCOLN – The Anniston basketball team is relishing its role as top seed and host of the upcoming Class 5A Area 12 tournament, but the Bulldogs had to earn it.

The situation wasn’t so secure when the Bulldogs walked into Lincoln’s gym Friday night. If they didn’t beat the Bears, Alexandria was going steal the prize. Little wonder, then, coach Schuessler Ware called it a “must win.”

But the Bulldogs took care of business, jumping out early and winning the game between two top 10 teams 70-44.

“Coach told us (Thursday) at practice we had to win the game to host the area at our house, so we came out and won,” the Bulldogs’ Willie Thomas said. “It feels good to have it at our home, in our gym with our fans.”

With the win and No. 1 seed, the Bulldogs will play St. Clair County in their first-round tournament game. Alexandria and Lincoln will play in the other game.

The fifth-ranked Bulldogs settled the score early. They scored the first nine points of the game and were ahead 11-1 before No. 9 Lincoln scored its first field goal. It was 23-7 after the first quarter.

“They were ready to play,” Ware said. “Although everybody didn’t play well, we did enough collectively to come out on top.”

Tray Croft led four Anniston scorers in double figures with 18 points. Thomas played a strong overall game with 15 points, seven steals and six assists. DeQuan Ross had 15 points and Chris Beard had 10 points and nine boards.

“There really wasn’t a doubt, we just came out and played hard through a lot of adversity,” Croft said. “We read an article where the coach said how they were going to beat us bad today, so that motivated us even more.”

It was easy for Lincoln coach Rush Rutledge to tell where this one got away. His team had 35 turnovers and was 0-for-19 from 3-point range. The Bears had more turnover than points in the first half and Rutledge could never recall that happening in 13 years of coaching.

“You can’t turn it over that much,” he said. “We turned it over 19 times in the first half and never got out the hole. You can’t beat anybody like that.

“That’s not us. We’re not playing like we’re supposed to. We’re down here in a rut and I can’t explain it. We’ve got to fight our way out of it. It’s been about two weeks. Anything bad that can happen right now is happening and is happening and we’ve got to get out of it.”

Anniston 70, Lincoln 44

ANNISTON – Marrio Dobbins 0 0-0 0, Tray Croft 6 5-6 18, Hakeem Ross 2 1-1 5, Davion Tippins 1 0-0 2, Willie Thomas 6 3-5 15, DeQuan Ross 6 2-6 15, Chris Beard 5 0-3 10, Tae Miller 1 0-1 2, Trevonta Carter 1 1-1 3. Totals 28 12-23 70.

LINCOLN – C.J. Orr 1 0-0 2, Zay Caldwell 2 6-9 10, Tyler Hemphill 3 7-8 13, Malik Weed 0 0-0 0, Quin Carmichael 0 1-3 1, Dee Whiteside 5 2-2 12, L.J. Carmichael 2 2-2 6, Chris Prince 0 0-0 0, Donte Rivers 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 18-24 44

Anniston 23 11 16 20 — 70
Lincoln 7 11 16 10 — 44

3-point goals: Anniston 2 (Croft, D. Ross). Fouled out: Caldwell. Total fouls: Anniston 20, Lincoln 21. Officials: Hollingsworth, Kelley, Chambers.

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