E.A. Sports Today

Young, Cubs see past Lincoln

Senior guard has sharp eye in lifting Alexandria to first-round area win; Cubs face Anniston for area title

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Alexandria coach Jason Johnson couldn’t be happier with the way Caleb Young has elevated his game since the start of the new year.

And there really has been a secret to his success that up to now has been known only to the senior guard.

It can now be revealed that since New Year’s Day Young has been playing in contact lenses for the first time in his career. To quote the song, he can see clearly now.

Young scored 19 points and grabbed five rebounds Monday as the Valley Cubs got past Lincoln 53-47 in the 2/3-seed game of the boys Class 5A Area 12 tournament at Anniston High.

Young wears glasses for near-sightedness in school, but the specs become uncomfortable for him to wear in games so he’s basically been playing in a blur throughout his career.

It was so bad, he said, he couldn’t see the scoreboard and could barely see the floor.

“I can get to the basket a lot easier, being able to see, basically,” he said. “I didn’t think it was going to make that big of a difference, but everything’s closer, so a lot of shots are more comfortable if they’re close to the goal.

“At one point I was taking deeper 3s since I thought it was so far when I was right on the line. It helps a lot.”

In the 13 games since going to the contacts, Young has scored 188 points and the Valley Cubs (18-5) are 10-3. They now play Anniston for the area title Thursday.

Doing everything he could do ensure this wouldn’t be his team’s final game of the season Young scored six points in the first quarter and had 15 in the first half.

“He’s been playing good,” Johnson said. “When you can’t see it’s hard to shoot. … He carried us tonight. I was very proud of him.”

Given the nature of the game – a tough 2/3 matchup where the winner gets a spot in the substate and the loser goes home – Johnson admitted he was a little nervous.

The Valley Cubs led wire-to-wire, but Lincoln made them work for it. They were up seven with less than two minutes to go, but the Golden Bears (20-9) cut it back to four three times before Jamal Tucker held them back with four free throws in the final minute.

“Every first round game in the area tournament is very nerve-wracking,” Johnson said. “I just wanted it so much for the kids; they’d accomplished so much this year and I just wanted them to experience some success and make it to the playoffs.

“The kids were real calm the whole day today at school, (but) I’ve been kind of worried to death and they just found a way. Maybe somewhere down the road in the playoffs we can use that to an advantage.”

Anniston 72, St. Clair County 31: Guard Tray Croft broke out of a mini shooting slump by going 9-of-13 from the floor in a 22-point night that gave coach Schuessler Ware a shot at winning his 15th area title in 19 seasons – and fourth in a row — with the Bulldogs before retiring.

Croft was 4-of-7 from 3-point range as he crammed all his points into the first three quarters before calling it a night. He also had seven steals.

“I was very happy,” Croft said. “I’ve been in a drought lately, finally got out of it. I hope I keep it that way. Coach told me I was pulling on it too much, so I just started going up straight and following through.”

The Bulldogs had little trouble with this one. They opened a 20-5 lead in the first quarter and continued to pour it on. They held the Saints to three field goals and 10 points in the second half.

DeQuan Ross had 17 points and seven rebounds for Anniston. Davion Tippins had 10 points and eight boards. Willie Thomas had seven points, six assists and five steals before fouling out.

“Its always good to get through the first one; you know you live to see two more games,” Ware said. “Although we won there are always things you can work on. We were glad to see (Croft) was able to get his shot back on. Hopefully that’s just the start of something. It’s a new season now.”

Alexandria 53, Lincoln 47

LINCOLN (20-9) – Zay Caldwell 2 4-5 8, Tyler Hemphill 5 3-5 14, Malik Weed 1 0-0 3, Quin Carmichael 0 1-2 1, Dee Whiteside 4 3-4 11, L.J. Carmichael 3 1-3 7, Chris Prince 1 0-0 3, Donte Rivers 0 0-0 0, Brikeal Truss 0 0-0 0, Savon Woods 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 12-19 47.

ALEXANDRIA (18-5) – Riley Shaw 0 1-2 1, Chase Smitherman 0 0-0 0, A.J. Martin 0 1-2 1, Dalton Dodd 5 0-0 11, Gerald Murphy 1 0-0 2, Jamal Tucker 1 5-10 8, Caleb Young 8 3-7 19, Marcus Swink 1 2-2 4, Luke Tucker 1 5-8 7. Totals 17 17-31 53.

Lincoln 8 13 10 16 — 47
Alexandria 11 14 11 17 — 53

3-point goals: Lincoln 3 (Hemphill, Weed, Prince); Alexandria 2 (Dodd, J. Tucker). Total fouls: Lincoln 25, Alexandria 17. Officials: Williams, Young, Battles.

Anniston 72, St. Clair County 31

ST. CLAIR COUNTY – Taylor Mickens 0 1-2 1, Colby Smith 0 2-2 2, Hakeem Davis 3 1-2 8, Grayson Beatty 1 0-0 2, Justin May 1 0-0 2, Mason Anderson 1 1-3 3, Temothee Smith 2 1-4 5, Garrett Sanders 2 4-5 8. Totals 10 10-18 31.

ANNISTON – Marrio Dobbins 3 0-0 6, Tray Croft 9 0-0 22, Hakeen Ross 2 0-1 4, Davion Tippins 5 0-0 10, Willie Thomas 3 0-2 7, Leonard Brown 1 0-0 3, DeQuan Ross 7 1-1 17, Jarris Jackson 0 0-0 0, Tae Miller 1 1-2 3, Trevonta Carter 0 0-0 0, Tareeq Wood Packer 0 0-0 0. Totals 31 2-6 72.

St. Clair County 5 16 3 7 — 31
Anniston 20 16 20 16 — 72

3-point goals: St. Clair County 1 (Davis); Anniston (Croft 4, Thomas, Brown, D. Ross 2). Fouled out: Thomas. Total fouls: Lincoln 7, Anniston 20. Officials: Williams, Battles, Hall.

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