E.A. Sports Today

Another Final Four heartbreak

Anniston falls to Central Tuscaloosa in 5A girls Final Four, third year in a row Lady Dawgs have lost by 2 points or less

Raven Cooley (4) and Miajah Bullock (3) display the tight defense that got Anniston back in its Class 5A girls semifinal Wednesday. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Raven Cooley (4) and Miajah Bullock (3) display the tight defense that got Anniston back in its Class 5A girls semifinal Wednesday. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

BIRMINGHAM – For the third year in a row Anniston girls basketball coach Eddie Bullock sat at the podium and tried to find the words to describe what the emptiness he was feeling deep inside. It’s never easy.

For the third year in a row his team’s season ended in a hard-luck loss in the state semifinals, one game away from playing for that elusive state title. This time, the Lady Bulldogs fell to Central Tuscaloosa 39-37 Wednesday in the Class 5A Final Four at the BJCC Legacy Arena.

“It was just another hard, tough-fought battle and we came up a little bit short,” Bullock said. “It’s just tough when you get in situations like that.

“It’s just hard to put in words. … I guess I probably need to come up with maybe a little better play selection with six seconds left. I’ll always play it over in my mind. I just wonder what I could have done different as a coach.”

It seems we stood and talked like this before,
We looked at each other in the same way then,
But I can’t remember where or when

It was just last year at the Bill Harris Arena where the Lady Dawgs lost a 42-40 heartbreaker to Brewbaker Tech. And the year before that, in the 4A semifinals, they lost to Calera 45-44 on a last-second shot.

“Coach Savarese always says somebody’s going to be disappointed,” Bullock said, referring to AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese. “You don’t ever want to be that team that’s the one that’s disappointed and we’ve gotten it the last three years.”

A lot went wrong for Bullock’s bunch early, but the Lady Dawgs (20-7) still had a chance to win it at the end.

A free throw by Miajah Bullock pulled them to 39-37 with 8.1 seconds left and they got it back with 6.9 seconds to go when the Lady Falcons (28-5) traveled trying to corral a deep inbounds pass.

Raven Cooley was fouled before Anniston could get the ball inbounds, but the Lady Falcons had a foul to give. Palmer re-entered the ball to Cooley, who actually was the decoy on the final play, but Central’s Traniya Pitts slipped in behind and stole it in the backcourt with three seconds left before Cooley could get rid of it to end Anniston’s bid.

“I stayed back behind I didn’t want to get a foul and when I saw her get the ball she had her back turned so I swiped it,” Pitts said. “I was going to go up with it, but I didn’t. I guess I did a smart play because I didn’t go up.”

Anything that could go wrong for the Lady Dawgs in the first half did. They missed their first 10 shots from the floor, didn’t score from the field until 1:35 elapsed in the second quarter, missed all nine of their 3-point attempts and got outrebounded 21-10. They were only 3-of-20 from the floor in the half and hit two of their last three shots to do that.

The only reason they trailed only 14-9 at the break was because Central wasn’t very efficient, either. The Lady Falcons had 16 turnovers in the half and even with the way things went Bullock believed “we would get back in it.”

The Lady Dawgs did with their defense and used it to score the last 12 points of the third quarter to take its first lead of the game. Palmer’s three-point play with 2.8 seconds left made it a 23-22 game.

“They started pressing and we weren’t ready for it,” Central coach Michael Rivers said. “We had heard they really didn’t press that much, and we weren’t ready for it when they came out with it.”

It was a particularly rough night for Cooley. The Lady Dawgs’ senior shooter missed her first 11 shots from the floor – nine from 3-point range — and didn’t score until 1:06 remained in the second quarter.

Cooley’s first 3-pointer came with 3:59 left in the third quarter. Her second gave the Lady Dawgs a 34-31 lead with 2:47 left in the game. She finished 6-of-23 from the floor and 2-of-16 from 3-point range.

“The first half I was rushing my shots,” Cooley said choking back tears. “I came out kind of amped up and ready to play but I did rush my shots at the beginning. I wasn’t frustrated, I just knew I had to take my time.”

Central-Tuscaloosa 39, Anniston 37

CENTRAL-TUSCALOOSA (28-5) – Jada Prewitt 1-2 2-2 4, Traniya Pitts 6-8 3-5 15, Antiyocka Howard 3-11 0-2 6, Shaunterius Stephens 5-12 2-3 12, Latasha Maddix 1-1 0-0 2, Lauryn Sutton 0-1 0-0 0, Trinity Totten 0-0 0-0 0, McKenzie Mahome 0-1 0-0 0, Daveon Bradford 0-1 0-0 0, Frednesha Ford 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-37 7-12 39.

ANNISTON (20-7) – Miajah Bullock 2-7 6-8 10, Raven Cooley 6-23 0-0 14, Davia Palmer 1-7 1-1 3, Carsheuna Crry 3-5 0-1 6, J’Kyra Clemons 1-7 0-0 2, Carlina Welch 0-0 0-0 0, Kendra Finley 1-1 0-0 2, Amoriya Dudley 0-1 0-0 0, Jemya Bullock 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-51 7-10 37.

Central-Tusc. 8 6 8 17 — 39
Anniston 2 7 14 14 — 37

3-point goals: Central 0-6 (Howard 0-4, Stephens 0-1, Mahome 0-1); Anniston 2-16 (Cooley 2-16). Rebounds: Central 37 (Stephens 12); Anniston 27 (Clemons 10). Total fouls: Central 10, Anniston 14. Officials: Randall Bugg, Felecia Cushenberry, Terry Ware.

Anniston's Davia Palmer (15) moves in to defend against Central Tuscaloosa leading scorer Traniya Pitts. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Anniston’s Davia Palmer (15) moves in to defend against Central Tuscaloosa leading scorer Traniya Pitts. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)



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