E.A. Sports Today

Saks rallies to win

Wildcats use long ball, defensive switch to rally from double-digit deficits early and late and win Class 4A Area 8 title

Saks’ Darien Briskey contorts his body to avoid Handley’s Jay Brown on a drive to the basket. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The Saks Wildcats had their mental toughness tested Saturday night and they passed the test.

The Wildcats played from behind for most of their Class 4A Area 8 championship game, but even in the darkest times stayed the course and rallied to beat Handley 60-53.

The Wildcats now will host Hokes Bluff in the Class 4A sub-regional, while Handley will travel to White Plains in what projects to be one of the best better games of the tournament.

“For me that was great to see because that’s what we’ve been preaching to our team all year to our team about fighting through adversity and having a little bit of mental toughness,” Saks coach Jonathan Miller said. “Just to be honest with you there have been times this year we have not shown that. We’ve fallen apart in some games where we shouldn’t have and I hope now we look at this game and use it as a learning experience.

“Tonight we definitely showed some mental toughness. I thought we stayed together as a team. Our team believed the whole night we were going to win the game – on the bench. We were up, we were positive, even when we got down. Just a lot of good positive energy there on the bench.”

The Wildcats scored the first two points of the game, then didn’t lead again until LaDerrick Bell’s 3-pointer with 1:33 to play put them up 54-53. In between, they were down 29-15 in the second quarter, 48-35 early in the fourth and 53-51 with 1:46 to play.

Things really looked bleak for Saks when Dre Watkins nailed three straight 3s from the right corner to close the third quarter right after the Wildcats got within one. But the Wildcats turned to the 3-pointer and what Miller called a “great quarter and one minute” of man defense to spark their comeback.

“The main thing was we didn’t give up; we kept our composure throughout the whole game,” leading scorer DeVaunghn Beason said.

The Wildcats hit nine 3s in the game, five by Bell and four by Beason. Bell’s last two were most clutch. The first tied the game at 51. Darius Joiner put Handley back on top 53-51, then Bell gave Saks the lead with another that touched off a 9-0 run to the end of the game.

“To win a game like this somebody has to step up and make some plays and he definitely did that,” Miller said. “Those were two huge shots. He had the guts to take them and he knocked them down. We’re at our best when he’s knocking down the 3, because that opens up so much more for our other guys.”

The players said it was all about believing.

“We kept telling each other not to give up,” Bell said. “When we first went into halftime we were down, and we told them we’ve got to change the way we were playing; we got to get the momentum on our side. We’ve got confidence and we do believe in our team. They believed in me and I guess I had the hot touch.”

Saks’ Tray Huguley was named the tournament MVP. He was joined on the all-area team by teammates Bell, Beason, Darien Briskey and Alfonza Ward; Handley’s Watkins, Jay Brown and Kardavious Foster; Munford’s LaRaie Ball and Maijah Smith; and Anniston’s Marrio Dobbins and Joetavius Embry.

Class 4A Area 8 Championship
Saks 60, Handley 53
Darius Joiner 2 5-6 10, Jay Brown 3 0-0 7, Dre Watkins 7 0-3 20, Tyrese Heard 3 5-6 11, Vonte Green 0 0-0 0, Kadarious Foster 2 1-2 5. Totals 17 11-17 53.

SAKS – Darien Briskey 6 4-6 16, DeVaunghn Beason 6 5-6 21, LaDerrick Bell 5 1-2 16, Alfonza Ward 1 1-3 3, Tray Hughley 2 0-0 4, Jalen Borders 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 11-17.

Handley 20 9 16 8 — 53
Saks 8 18 9 25 — 60

3-point goals: Handley 8 (Joiner, Brown, Watkins 6); Saks 9 (Beason 4, Bell 5). Total fouls: Handley 13, Saks 12. Officials: Harrell, Graves, Batey.

Dre Watkins buried three straight 3s from that right corner to give Handley a 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

You must be logged in to post a comment Login