E.A. Sports Today

Aggies prevail

Short three times this season, Sylacauga holds off county rival Talladega when it counts to reach Class 5A title game

By East Alabama Sports Today

BIRMINGHAM – Malik Crawford went to the free throw line Wednesday night with six seconds left and a chance to seal the game, but before he took the first shot he had a little conversation with himself.

“If I make these free throws we go to the state championship,” he said. “I’ve got to make them.”

He did and it gave Sylacauga a 59-55 victory over county rival Talladega in the Class 5A Final Four at the BJCC. The Aggies (30-5) now play Eufaula (29-9) for their first-ever state title Saturday at 10:45 a.m.

“I did like the conversation,” Crawford said. “And the result.”

The 6-foot-3 senior was a beast in the game. He scored 25 points, shooting 12-of-15 from the field, and grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots (in the fourth quarter).

The teams were playing for the fourth time this season, but it was the first time the Aggies came away victorious.

“It feels great,” Crawford said. “I’m telling you the whole week during practice the coaches preached to us they beat us three times. We didn’t worry about that. We knew we were going to beat them the whole time.“

It didn’t go unnoticed that while Crawford was saying that, Aggies coach Will Copeland buried his head in his palm.

The Aggies jumped out to a 21-13 lead in the first quarter and Talladega coach Chucky Miller admitted “it put us behind the eight-ball the rest of the night.”

The Tigers did fight back and eventually got the game tied at 45 after three quarters.

It was 47-47 and then Sylacauga scored the next six points and never trailed again. Crawford had a layup, Erron Bryant had a put-back and Crawford coverted a steal into a dunk to make it 53-47 with 4:18 to play.

Kobe Simmons hit a third-chance layup with 23 seconds left to make it 57-53 and hit a second-chance jumper with six seconds left to make it 57-55. The Tigers called time, then fouled Crawford on the inbounds, but Crawford thwarted that strategy by making both free throws.

The Tigers had 22 offensive rebounds in the game despite a lineup full of guards, but shot only 4-of-19 from the floor in the fourth quarter.

“I thought the effort we gave was total 100 percent,” Miller said. “We just couldn’t finish it off tonight.”

The Aggies did a good defensive job on the Tigers’ big three of Fred Dickerson, Chaztin Tanner and Ashton Duncan. They were a combined 9-of-36 from the floor, 6-of-16 from 3-point range, and finished with eight points apiece. Simmons led the Tigers with 16 points.

“When it came down to it what won the game was straight man-to-man defense,” Copeland said. “It’s what we played all year and in this type game that’s what you’re gonna do.

“Two (Dickerson), 4 (Tanner) and 12 (Duncan) were the guys we had to stop and each had eight points. Dickerson had 29 the last time we played and (Tanner) had five 3s in the first quarter. It was a very good defensive effort that won this game.”

Eufaula 79, Wenonah 73 – The Tigers (29-9) hit 11 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter, seven in a 7-0 run over the final 1:55, to earn their first berth in a state championship game since 1999.

The Dragons (29-7) led 73-72 before Eufaula’s final march to the line. Laquaveous Nelson, Tyler Mayo and Jadarious Blackshire each made two free throws in the stretch. each. Eufaula finished the quarter 11-of-14 and was 16-of-25 for the game.

Nelson led the Tigers with 22 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Mayo had 19 points with four 3-pointers, Eiszeric Thomas had 12 points and Blackshire 10. Cameron Tucker had 27 points, going 4-of-7 3-pointers and 11-of-11 from the line, and Justin Minter 24 for Wenonah.

Sylacauga 59, Talladega 55
TALLADEGA (21-11) –
Fred Dickerson 3-12 0-0 8, Chaztin Tanner 3-11 0-0 8, Ashton Duncan 3-13 0-0 8, J.Q. Wilson 0-4 2-2 2, Kobe Simmons 8-15 0-0 16, Tyrese Scales 0-3 0-0 0, D’Corian Wilson 3-5 0-0 6, Rontavious Barclay 2-4 0-0 4, Jay Patterson 1-2 1-3 3. Totals 23-69 3-5 55.

SYLACAUGA (30-5) – Malik Crawford 12-15 0-1 27, Erron Bryant 5-10 2-4 12, Keaton Wilson 1-9 0-0 2, Darian Garrett 4-7 2-2 11, Malik Powell 0-2 0-0 0, Desmon Jones 0-5 4-6 4, Aametrius Sanders 0-1 0-0 0, Jordan Robinson 1-3 0-0 3, Shannon Grant 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-52 11-16 59.

Talladega 13 12 20 10 — 55
Sylacauga 21 11 13 14 — 59

3-point goals: Talladega 6-18 (Dickerson 2-3, Tanner 2-7, Duncan 2-6, Simmons 0-1, DC Wilson); Sylacauga 2-8 (Crawford 0-1, Wilson 0-1, Garrett 1-2, Powell 0-2, Robinson 1-2). Rebounds: Talladega 39 (Dickerson 7, Simmons 5); Sylacauga 40 (Crawford 7, Bryant 7). Total fouls: Talladega 13, Sylacauga 8. Officials: Brian McCollum, Kenith Booker, Wesley Brackett.

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