E.A. Sports Today

Breaking the dynasty

Handley coach seeks her dad’s help, uses one of his old defenses to confound Anniston, win area title

Handley has every option contained on this inbounds play; the Tigers used tight defense to beat Anniston at its own game. On the cover, Tenqua Rhodes (4) leads Handley on the break. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

The Handley Tigers came to Anniston on a mission Friday night and rode back to Roanoke with an area championship in their hands.

Handley shocked Anniston 64-54 to win the Class 4A Area 8 girls title. The Lady Dawgs had won nine straight area crowns since 2009.

Handley coach Courtney Strain used a match-up zone put in by her coaching great father Larry Strain to befuddle Anniston and force it into 20 turnovers, basically beating the Lady Dawgs at their own game.

“My dad helped put this defense in at the beginning of the year, as I had never had to play or coach it before,” Strain said. “He used on some of his boys teams that were small and it worked so well for us on this night. He even came and helped to install the offense in the pre-season.

“Anniston had an incredible post player (Toniah Foster) and a great outside shooter (Allasha Dudley) that we had to stop. We had to try something different as they beat us by 31 points here a few weeks back.”

The Tigers (15-7) led by five at halftime and then created four straight turnovers to start the second half to open a 10-point lead at 38-28. The closest Anniston (21-6) would get the rest of the way would be five points, as the Tigers had an answer for each run the Lady Dawgs made.

Point guard Tenequa Rhodes was brilliant on defense and continuously would create turnovers and beat the Anniston press that led her team to some easy baskets. She had 21 points in the game and was named tournament MVP.

Rhodes ran into foul trouble with four minutes to go and Strain had to sit her on the bench for a precious couple of minutes. Anniston took advantage and cut it to 59-54, but Rhodes’ replacement, freshman Arie Kyles, came off the bench and picked up a huge bucket to put the Tigers back up by seven points and was able to help get the ball up the court.

“That was our future right there,” said Strain. “She came in and did a great job and bought us some time.”

Handley’s Alondra Veal (10) goes for the steal against Anniston’s Amoriya Dudley. Defense played a huge role in the Tigers’ victory. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Center Alondra Veal pulled down seven rebounds and scored 14 points. She knocked home four free throws in the last minute to preserve the win. She was 8-of-12 from the line in the game.

“I was not nervous at all,” said Veal. “Our scorekeeper said it is all in the wrist, so I just kept making sure I was following through with my wrists.”

Myrical Heard also came up with big play after big play. She nailed two huge 3s and ended up with 14 points and six rebounds.

“We knew that with the defense we were playing the backside defender would be huge and could get some rebounds,” Strain said. “She just did a great job for us.”

The win Strain’s first over Anniston in six tries the past two seasons.

“The work we put in and conquering the mental part of beating Anniston was what helped us win the game,” she said. “This is just a great moment for our program. Hopefully it will lead to us getting more kids out to play.”

Handley beat Anniston’s press a few times early to jump out to a 9-2 lead, but back came the Bulldogs with a six-point run to chop the lead to 9-8 and pulled ahead by 2 points by quarter’s end.

Anniston was having trouble getting shots to drop, even as it enjoyed a 21-7 edge in rebounds in the first half. Handley stayed close with timely shots and nice passes and re-took the lead at 25-24. The Tigers got a big 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer by Rhodes and took a 30-25 lead into the half.

Both teams will move on to sub-region play next week and may have one more shootout in the regionals at JSU. Anniston travels to Area 14 winner Madison Academy for its subregion game, while Handley hosts Madison County.

Rhodes was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Veal, Heard and Brittany Badger. Dudley, Foster and Tekyia Jackson represented Anniston on the team, while Miracle Dennard and Jamiracle Bass came from Saks.


Handley 64, Anniston 54
HANDLEY (15-7) –
Sara Welch 0 0-0 0, Tenqua Rhodes 6 7-14 21, Alondra Veal 3 8-12 14, Brittany Badger 1 2-2 4, Amber Cofield 0 0-0 0, Addie Robinson 1 0-0 2, Destiny Green 2 0-0 4, Myrical Heard 5 1-2 13, Grace Rittenhouse 1 2-2 4, Daihja Vines 0 0-0 0, Janiya Heard 0 0-0 0, Arie Kyles 1 0-0 3.

ANNISTON (23-6) – Allasha Dudley 7 1-2 19, Measia Kelley 0 0-0 0, Anna Garrett 2 1-3 5, Amoriya Dudley 1 0-0 2, Jordyn Johnson 2 0-0 4, Tekyia Jackson 2 1-4 5, Kiana Montgomery 3 0-0 6, A. Barclay 0 0-0 0, L. Barclay 0 0-0 0, Toniah Foster 5 3-6 13.

Handley 12 18 18 16 — 64
Anniston 14 11 13 16 — 54

3-point goals: Handley 4 (Rhodes 2, Heard 2); Anniston 4 (Al. Dudley 4).

To view a photo gallery from the game visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

The Handley defense kept close tabs on Anniston’s Allasha Dudley (3) and Toniah Foster. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

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