E.A. Sports Today

Saks boys heads up

It took three coin flips to decide the Class 4A Area 8 boys race; no such drama on the girls side

Anniston boys coach Torry Brown (L) and Saks’ Jonathan Miller participated in an extended coin toss with Handley Monday to determine the top seed for their area tournament. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

You really didn’t think the tightest race in the Northeast Region of Class 4A boys basketball was going to take only one coin toss to decide, did you?

The Area 8 race finished tighter than a good man-to-man defense through the regular season and, appropriately, it took three coin flips Monday to determine the No. 1 seed and host team for the area tournament.

Ultimately, Saks earned the spot, with Handley No. 2 and Anniston No. 3. All three teams finished 4-2 in the area, each beating the other on their home floors. All three swept Munford.

“It’s just one of those things where you were ready to get it over with, basically, and we had to flip it three times,” Saks coach Jonathan Miller said. “I’ve never been involved in a three-way tie like that before, so it was a little different. There was definitely a little nervous energy around the room.

“This is a big deal getting to host that thing because it’s a very good area with three teams that all split during the regular season, so whichever coach won the flip was going to be happy.”

There was no such drama in the girls’ race with Anniston running the table ahead of Handley, Munford and Saks.

The girls area tournament will be played at Anniston Feb. 7 and 10 with the Lady Bulldogs playing Saks, and Handley playing Munford in the opening round.

The boys tournament will be at Saks Feb. 9 and 11 with the Wildcats opening against Munford, and Handley playing Saks to keep their season alive.

The area tournament winners and runner-ups advance to the subregional against the top two teams from Area 12 that includes regular-season winner White Plains, Cherokee County, Hokes Bluff and Jacksonville.

The rules of the coin toss were simple enough. All three coaches – Miller, Anniston’s Torry Brown and Handley’s Blake Smalley – stood in front of the room, tossed their coins and the odd man won.

The first time, Miller’s 2001 Alabama state quarter picked out by his son Knox the night before, Brown’s 1982 quarter borrowed from another teacher and Smalley’s nickel all came up heads. The second time the coins all came up tails.

“Triple overtime,” somebody in the room said.

On the third toss, Miller’s coin landed heads to the other two’s tails. How Smalley came to get short-changed by 20 cents was he shook his piggybank and out rolled eight nickels, so he figured that’s what he’d better use; six came out tails, two were heads.

Actually, Brown lost the coin toss twice. He called the toss for the 2-3 seed that basically was just to determine the first-round home team heads and Smalley’s flip came up tails.

“At the same time I was actually pretty lucky; we’re used to that side of the bench,” Brown said. “(The triple toss) is probably a microcosm of the season since we all won at home.”

The biggest element to winning the coin toss is it gives the Wildcats an easier road to the sub-regional, but Miller isn’t looking past anyone.

“After the beating we took the other night at Handley I really didn’t want to play either Anniston or Handley,” he said. “We’ve been in these situations before where we’ve hosted the tournament and lost the 1-4 game, so we’re definitely going to be ready to play and not take Munford for granted … because all across the state there are going to be some 4s that beat 1s so we don’t want to be one of those.”

Meanwhile, with Anniston playing Handley in the first round, some good team — one either ranked or being considered in the poll — is not going to have a shot at playing for a trip to the regionals.

“The advantage the 1 has is clearly being able to play at home; the 2 and the 3 is really the same,” Brown said. “The advantage for us is it’s 10 minutes from our school so hopefully we can turn it into sort of a home game where we can have a lot of people there.”

Class 4A Area 8 Tournament
Girls Bracket
At Anniston
Feb. 7

Handley vs. Munford, 5 p.m.
Saks at Anniston, 6:30
Feb. 10
Championship game, 6 p.m.

Boys Bracket
At Saks
Feb. 9

Munford at Saks, 6 p.m.
Anniston vs. Handley, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 11
Championship game, 6 p.m.

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