E.A. Sports Today

Throwing it down

Huguley’s first varsity slam puts an exclamation point on Saks’ ‘best game against the best team’ in top-10 battle over Handley; Lady Wildcats run out of gas in the girls game

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

As fast-running and high-flying as the Saks basketball team has been this season, it’s truly hard to believe one thing hasn’t happen for it.

Through almost 17 complete games the Wildcats have not had one dunk.

Until Friday night.

And the situation demanded, almost screamed for, it.

Junior Tray Huguley threw down the first dunk of his career and the team’s first of the season on a breakaway with two seconds left to put an exclamation point on the 10th-ranked Wildcats’ best game of the year, a 77-59 area win over No. 6 Handley.

“Easily this is the best game we played against the best team we played,” Saks coach Jonathan Miller said. “We played I guess up to our potential tonight. It’s tough to play that way every night.”

How good was it? Without exaggeration, everything the coaches called from the bench offensively worked. Miller estimated his team shot 60 percent from the floor just two games removed from an abysmal shooting night against Anniston.

And not only did they hit from the floor, they were sharp from the free throw line. The Wildcats were 17 of 22 from the stripe – after missing their first three — and at one point in the middle two quarters hit nine in a row.

“When the ball goes in the basket it gives you a whole lot of confidence,” Miller said. “We didn’t play with a whole lot of confidence Tuesday night. We couldn’t buy a basket early and that just kind of fed through the whole entire game. Tonight, the ball went early; that was huge for our confidence.

“We’ve got guys who can score the basketball. We haven’t looked like it a lot this year, but we’ve got guys who can put it in the basket.”

Four Wildcats scored in double figures, with Darien Briskey having what Miller called a “breakout game.”

Briskey, who shed his bulky goggles for contact lenses right after the new year, had 13 points while taking advantage of his teammates’ encouragement “to do the things I’m capable of doing” and the mismatches they created for him. He scored the Wildcats’ last nine points of the third quarter as they started to pull away. He’s actually been “feeling it” since the morning of Thursday’s game against Munford.

Meanwhile, DeVaunghn Beason and Alfonza Ward both scored 20 and Huguley finished with 19 after his thunderous breakaway dunk in the closing seconds.

“Tray certainly wears out our rims in practice and he got an opportunity tonight to put one down and I guess it was a nice exclamation point,” Miller said.

Miller doesn’t discourage his players from dunking the ball, but if it’s a close game and there’s a chance the player may miss he encouraged them to lay up the ball.

Huguley, playing only his second year of organized basketball, said he had two other chances to throw one down earlier this year but someone got in front of him.

He was excited when the chance came to “make a point” at the end of the game.

“I’ve been wanting to dunk for the longest and tonight my teammates gave it to me and I just went up for it,” he said.

Saks 77, Handley 59
HANDLEY (13-2) –
Darius Joiner 4 2-2 12, Gare Gates 2 2-2 8, Jay Brown 4 3-3 11, Qua Patterson 1 0-0 2, Dre Watkins 1 0-0 3, Tyrese Heard 6 1-3 13, Kadarius Foster 5 0-1 10, Josh Hatcher 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 8-11 59.

SAKS (12-5) – Darien Briskey 4 4-6 13, DeVaunghn Beason 5 8-8 20, Laderrick Bell 0 0-0 0, Alfonza Ward 7 4-6 20, Tray Huguley 9 1-2 19, Jamal Stone 2 0-0 5, Brent Clark 0 0-0 0, Jaylen Young 0 0-0 0, Jalen Borders 0 0-0 0. Totals 27 17-22 77.

Handley 13 15 21 10 — 59
Saks 11 22 24 20 — 77

3-point goals: Handley 5 (Joiner 2, Gates 2, Watkins); Saks 6 (Briskey, Beason 2, Ward 2, Stone). Fouled out: Joiner. Total fouls: Handley 18, Saks 10. Officials: Stringer, Warren, Smith.

Handley 71, Saks 51

It’s been a tough year for the Lady Wildcats. After one of the most successful seasons in the program’s history, one that included a Calhoun County Tournament title and a trip to the Northeast Regional, the team finds itself in a rebuilding mode with some substantial growing pains.

Defections of returning veterans have left them with only eight players to get through a competitive battle for the second playoff spot from their area, most of them tenth-graders, one regular from last year’s team and at least three who are playing basketball for the first time.

They’ve had their moments, but they’ve also gone through some hard times. Earlier this week they lost to Anniston 76-6, failing to score in the middle two quarters, but coach Michelle Lively was impressed that they kept playing despite the score. Then, Friday night, they cut a big deficit to four with just under seven minutes to play, but couldn’t get closer and Handley pulled back out to a comfortable margin.

“We had some turmoil and drama going on at the start of the week and it says a lot about these kids (that they’ve stuck with it),” Lively said. “It started the night we played Anniston. They played so hard and just kept at kept at it to the last second I couldn’t tell the score was so bad.

“Then the next night we played at Munford and it was the same kind of story. They came out kind of strong and doing things the way they’re supposed to and we just run out of gas. We’re still trying to fill in the roles, but it makes me feel super proud because it would be easy for them to be like ‘we’ll quit too’ or be a joke, but the ones that are left their character says a lot about what’s important to them.”

Lively still believes a slot in the sub-regional is out there for them. Considering all they’ve gone through this season, grabbing that would be as big a story as the success they enjoyed last year.

Handley 71, Saks 51
ShyNia Patterson 4 3-4 11, TeNequa Rhodes 11 3-11 25, Alondra Veal 1 0-0 2, Brittany Badger 2 0-0 4, Anna Robinson 0 0-0 0, Destiny Green 5 0-2 10, Rene Broome 0 0-0 0, Myrical Heard 2 1-2 5, Tiara Williams 5 2-4 12, Daihja Vines 1 0-4 2. Totals 31 9-27 71.

SAKS – Izzy Shaver 1 0-0 2, Amya Carlise 4 1-1 10, Takeidra Borden 4 11-15 19, Amari Neally 0 0-0 0, Summer Baxter 3 1-1 7, Miracle Dennard 3 6-8 13, Alexis Petty 0 1-3 1. Totals 15 20-27 51.

Handley 8 22 13 28 — 71
Saks 10 10 14 17 — 51

3-point goals: Saks 2 (Carlise, Dennard). Fouled out: Shaver. Total fouls: Handley 23, Saks 20. Officials: Johnson, Warren, Morris.

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