E.A. Sports Today

Looking ahead

Anniston boys edge Alexandria in 5A Area 12 final, but both are advancing to the subregionals; Croft MVP

By Jason Katz
For East Alabama Sports Today

Schuessler Ware held his baby granddaughter in his arms as his Anniston basketball team walked to midcourt to claim its prize as Class 5A Area 12 champions Thursday night.

As the season winds down, Ware is enjoying the little things as he plans for his last game in the Anniston High School gym as the Bulldogs’ head coach Tuesday night. He formally retires after the team plays its final game.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” Ware said. “This season has been very special to me and to see these young men play for themselves and for me. I am really just enjoying every second that I can right now.”

The Bulldogs will entertain the loser of tonight’s Area 11 title game between Hayden and Mortimer Jordan in the subregionals; Alexandria will travel to the Area 11 winner. The winner of Tuesday’s games advance to the Northeast Regional.

Anniston beat Alexandria in the title game 56-50. It was Ware’s 15th area title in 19 seasons with the Bulldogs and fourth in a row. Tray Croft scored 23 points as he was the tournament MVP.

DeQuan Ross, the MVP of the Calhoun County Tournament, also made the all-tournament team after scoring 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the championship game.

“We came together tonight and played much better in the second half,” Croft said. “We want to get coach another ring so it is important that we play better as the teams we play get better going down the road.”

The Valley Cubs (18-6) hit seven 3-pointers in the first half and led every quarter exception the one that mattered most. The defensive pressure and speed of Anniston that has plagued other teams this season affected the Valley Cubs towards the end as they just did not have enough in the tank to win.

While the Valley Cubs weren’t happy about the loss, they were excited about advancing to subregionals and getting another shot to make it to Birmingham.

“I’m proud of the way we came down here and played tonight,” Cubs coach Jason Johnson said. “Most people come down here and get blown out, but we hung in there and just got edged out at the end. We will get to make a road trip next week, but that is OK – I love road trips.”


Anniston 56, Alexandria 50

ANNISTON (26-4) – Marrio Dobbins 0 1-2 1, Tray Croft 6 7-7 23, Hakeem Ross 2 0-0 4, Davion Tippins 2 0-0 4, Willie Thomas 1 4-7 6, DeQuan Ross 6 3-5 16, Chris Beard 1 0-1 2. Totals 18 15-22 56.

ALEXANDRIA (18-6) – Riley Shaw 2 0-0 6, Chase Smitherman 0 2-2 2, Austin Taylor 0 0-0 0, A.J. Martin 0 0-0 0, Dalton Dodd 5 0-0 13, Gerald Murphy 1 0-0 2, Jamal Tucker 4 2-2 12, Caleb Young 4 1-2 11, Marcus Swink 0 1-3 1, Luke Tucker 1 0-0 3. Totals: 17 6-9 50.

Alexandria 14 14 9 13 — 50
Anniston 12 13 19 12 — 56

3-point goals: Alexandria 10 (Shaw 2, Dodd 3, J. Tucker 2, Young 2, L. Tucker); Anniston 5 (Croft 4, D. Ross). Total fouls: Alexandria 17, Anniston 14. Officials: Bennett, Thomas, Teal.

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