E.A. Sports Today

Buzzer beater

Ward’s driving layup beats the clock, Westbrook Christian for spot in Champions Classic semifinals; Alexandria, Cherokee County also earn spots in semifinals

Alfonza Ward (4) scored the game-winning basket as time expired to send Saks into the Champions Christmas Classic semifinals. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Wednesday’s Games

Weaver 95, Jacksonville 85
Glencoe 49, St. Clair County 38
Boaz 43, Lincoln 39
Saks 49, Westbrook Christian 47
Alexandria 44, Springville 36
Cherokee County 51, Ohatchee 40

Thursday’s Games
Jacksonville vs. St. Clair County, noon
Weaver vs. Glencoe, 1:30 p.m.
Lincoln vs. Westbrook Christian, 3 p.m.
Springville vs. Ohatchee, 4:30 p.m.
Boaz vs. Saks, 6 p.m.
Alexandria vs. Cherokee County, 7:30 p.m.

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

Alfonza Ward hit a driving layup at the buzzer Wednesday to lead the Saks Wildcats to a come-from-behind 49-47 victory over Westbrook Christian at the Champion Sports Academy Christmas Classic.

The Wildcats got down 14-9 after one quarter of play, narrowed the margin to 25-23 at the half and were down 34-32 heading into the final quarter of play.

Ward and Devaughn Beason came out red hot in the fourth quarter, scoring eight and nine points, respectively, as the Wildcats pulled out to a 45-41 lead with three minutes left in the game.

Westbrook fought back and tied the game at 47 with 13 seconds left on a basket by Tyler Self. Saks did not call time out and Ward drove back down the court, hesitated a moment and then took it to the left side of the basket for the winning layup as time expired.

“I thought we played real tough tonight; Westbrook is a very good team,” said Saks head Coach Jonathan Miller.” We played very good down the stretch.

“These types of games are good for us. They will help us down the road – teach us not to panic. You cannot create situations like this in practice. There is nothing like live action.“

It was the second tight game in as many tournament starts for Westbrook Christian, only this one went the other way. The Warriors edged Weaver 71-70 in Monday’s opening round.

The Wildcats were led by Beason’s 23 points, while Ward added 10. Westbrook was led by Self’s 23 points and Trey Bearden’s 10.

Saks will play Boaz in Thursday’s 6 p.m. semifinal.

Saks’ Alfonza Ward (4) and Westbrook’s John Catanzaro (2) and Cullen Stafford all focus on the ball as it nears the basket. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Alexandria 44, Springville 36

The Valley Cubs just keep grinding away. Using a full court press and substituting five at a time, the Cubs jumped out to 14-4 first quarter lead that turned into a 28-12 lead at the break. Jake Weathington buried a pair of 3-pointers to spark the first half surge.

Austin Taylor knocked down two 3s in the third quarter as Alexandria stretched the lead to 41-19 lead after three quarters. For the second game in a row, 11 players scored for the Cubs.

In a strange fourth quarter, Springville scored the first 14 points and shut out the Valley Cubs until the final 39 seconds. The Tigers played a physical tenacious defense that created turnovers and allowed them to almost get back in the game.

“We cannot relax like we did tonight and did not shoot our free throws very well at all,” Alexandria coach Jason Johnson said. “We did not play well offensively and I think that leaked over on to the defensive side of the ball as well.

“Do not take anything away from Springville; they really got after it. They played hard defense and took us out of our game in the last quarter and a half.”

Poor free throw shooting did not help the Valley Cubs either, but Chase Smitherman’s two free throws ended the scoring drought in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers had cut the margin to 41-33.

“Being down two starters has created some opportunities for us to try and build some depth,” Johnson said. “They (Dalton Dodd and Josh Tucker) will not be back for about another month, so it is a chance for some younger guys to get some experience.

“They are doing a good job. The younger guys are getting better and are learning to compete, said Johnson.

The Valley Cubs did get two players back who had been missing since the start of the season. Joe Tucker, the team’s projected point guard, and Thorne Thornton both were cleared to play Wednesday and both got in the game. Tucker hit a 3-pointer in the third quarter.

The Valley Cubs will play Cherokee County in Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. semifinal.

Alexandria’s Jake Weathington (L) looks for an open man against Springville. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Cherokee County 51, Ohatchee 40

Cherokee County outscored Ohatchee by 19 points in the second half Wednesday to advance to the semifinals opposite Alexandria.

Ohatchee reeled off 14 straight points to overcome a 15-11 first quarter deficit against the Warriors. Center C.J. Ray was pounding the glass for seven rebounds and 11 points as the Indians took a 27-19 lead into halftime.

Kyle Burgess and Colin Edwards each had a 3-pointer to spark the Warriors to their first quarter lead, but then Cherokee County went stone-cold from the floor and did not score in the first six minutes of the second quarter.

The Warriors reconnected late in the third quarter and went on a 13-4 run to tie the game at 33. Burgess knocked down a pair of 3s and Ivory Moore and Quartez Henderson each added two buckets in the three-minute surge.

Cherokee County scored the first four points of the final quarter to open a four-point lead. Pressure defense and the inside defense of Henderson kept Ohatchee off balance as the Warriors pulled away.

The Warriors held Ohatchee to 13 points in the second half. Poor free-throw shooting hurt the Indians as they missed seven free throws in the second half.

“We picked up our defense in the second half and got on the boards pretty good with them,” Cherokee County coach Neal Wester said. “Our defense feeds our offense and when we get to playing well on defense it gets our scoring going. I was proud of their effort in coming back in the second half.”

Quartez Henderson had 15 points and seven rebounds to lead Cherokee County. The Warriors connected on six 3s in the contest.

Ohatchee’s Ray ended up with 18 points and nine rebounds. Grayson Alward battled his way for 12 rebounds and added 11 points for the Indians.

Alexandria’s Romeo Dye (22) tries to keep Springville’s Jordan McClellan from picking his pocket. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Saks 49, Westbrook 47
Darien Briskey 1 0-2 2, Devaughn Beason 7 4-5 23, Laderrick Bell 3 0-0 8, Alfonza Ward 4 2-3 10, Jamal Stone 0 0-2 0, Tray Huguley 1 2-2 4, Jakorius Watkins 0 2-2 2, Jalen Borders 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 10-14 49.

WESTBROOK – Will Jones 2 0-0 6, John Catanzaro 2 1-2 6, Cullen Stafford 0 0-0 0, Tyler Self 9 3-3 23, Trey Bearden 5 0-0 10, Braden Buchan 0 0-0 0, Caeden Godfrey 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 4-5 47.

Westbrook 14 11 9 13 — 47
Saks 9 14 9 17 — 49

3-point goals: Westbrook 5 (Jones 2, Catanzaro, Self 2); Saks 7 (Beason 5, Bell 2). Total fouls: Westbrook 15, Saks 13. Officials: Eric Stringer Jr., Lewis Roberts, Warren Askew.

Alexandria 44, Springville 36
Casey Tittle 0 0-0 0, Trevor Hurst 3 0-0 7, Brandon Daniels 1 1-2 3, Jordan McClellan 3 0-0 6, Maxwell Harrison 2 0-0 4, Jordan Byrd 0 0-0 0, Jacob Bickerstaff 1 2-4 4, Cameron Isabell 0 0-0 0, Nicholas Eldridge 0 0-0 0, Dave Phillips 1 0-0 2, Zachary Tucker 4 0-0 10. Totals 15 3-6 36.

ALEXANDRIA — Dru Davis 1 0-0 2, Chase Smitherman 3 2-5 8, Austin Taylor 3 0-0 8, Romeo Dye 1 0-0 2, Jake Weathington 2 0-0 6, Jamal Tucker 1 1-3 3, Jared Ponder 1 1-3 3, Landon Williams 3 0-0 6, Jayden Cunningham 0 1-2 1, Joe Tucker 1 0-0 3, Devin Grant 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 5-13 44.

Springville 4 8 7 17 — 36
Alexandria 14 14 13 5 — 44

3-point goals: Springville 3 (Hurst, Tucker 2); Alexandria 5 (Taylor 2, Weathington 2, Jo. Tucker). Total fouls: Springville 18, Alexandria 6. Officials: Wood, Roberts, Wright.

Cherokee County 51, Ohatchee 40
Ben Glass 1 1-3 3, Domonique Thomas 1 0-1 2, Blake Buckelew 2 0-1 4, C.J. Ray 6 6-8 18, Grayson Alward 3 5-6 11, Carson Stone 0 0-0 0, Kevin Williamson 0 0-0 0, Austin Tucker 1 0-2 2, Brennan Wink 0 0-0 0, Andrew Roberts 0 0-0 0, Bayley Tillison 0 0-0 0, Jordan Lowe 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 12-24 40.

CHEROKEE COUNTY – Zae Wright 0 0-0 0, Riley Russell 0 0-0 0, Jacob Graves 0 1-3 1, Cade Gossett 0 0-0 0, Kyle Burgess 3 2-3 11, Colin Edwards 1 1-2 4, Ivory Moore 5 1-2 11, Marcus Barrington 1 0-0 3, Jy Lockridge 1 1-2 3, Will Hawkins 1 1-1 3, Quartez Henderson 6 2-3 15. Totals 18 9-16 51.

Ohatchee 11 16 6 7 — 40
Cherokee County 15 4 14 18 — 51

3-point goals: Cherokee County 6 (Burgess 3, Edwards, Barrington, Henderson).
Fouled out: Wright. Total fouls: Ohatchee 19, Cherokee County 22.

To see more pictures from Wednesday night’s games, visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

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