E.A. Sports Today

Shifting gears

One week (and 3 practices) after winning Class 5A state title in football, Clay Central hits the hardwood and opens that season with victory at Saks

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

One week ago Shamari Simmons and most of his Clay Central basketball teammates were in the middle of Jordan-Hare Stadium celebrating a Class 5A football state championship.

The Volunteers were still riding that high earlier this week when basketball practice started and coach Joby Burns had to remind them it was a different season now.

With only three days of practice on the hardwood, the Vols transferred their focus and winning ways to the court and beat Saks in their season opener, 60-49.

“We played hard,” Burns said. “That’s the main thing I told them when we came out here. The basketball stuff is not going to be there yet, it’s going to be a while, but we can play extremely hard and we can play great defense and all the little things like that, so I was pleased with that.

“These guys right now are all football players, they all play football, and hopefully that’s going to carry over – the will to win and the physical and mental toughness. I definitely think we showed that today.”

All but two of the players in the Vols’ basketball lineup were on that football team that beat Vigor 43-42 in the state championship game. Simmons was MVP of that game and was the leader of the victory Thursday with 15 points. Dewayne Garrett gave them 10 points and four others had at least eight.

“It was hard (to switch gears), but we have competitors’ thoughts,” said Simmons, the team’s only returning starter. “We didn’t want to come in and lose the next one so we had to come in here and play ball. It’s our first game so we didn’t know how we were going to be, but we played real well.”

Saks coach Jonathan Miller thought the Vols got up and down the floor against his team “pretty good” for being right out of football.

“They’re probably feeling pretty good about themselves with a blue map; that helps,” he said.

With Saks having trouble scoring and giving up too many layups in transition, Clay Central opened an 18-point lead with about a minute left in the third quarter. The Wildcats made a run at the Vols in the fourth quarter, drawing within six with three minutes left, but could get no closer.

The Wildcats got Clay Central in foul trouble early and hit their first 11 free throws to open 21-15 lead early in the second quarter, but the Vols scored the next 11 points to take the lead for good. They had a 10-point lead the half and a 14-point lead entering the fourth quarter.

“The problem is we’re having lapses throughout the game where we’re letting our opponents stretch out the lead on us,” Miller said. “We just lost our mind for a stretch and we definitely can’t do that. We’re not talented enough this year to do that.

“During a storm we’ve got to maintain our focus and just do what we need to do on the next play and stop worrying about what happened on the previous play. That got us a little bit in the second quarter and the third quarter in the beginning and the next thing you know we’re down big and have to fight our way back. I was proud of our kids fighting back, but that lead should have never been that big in the first place.”

Clay Central 60, Saks 49
Paul Garrett 4 0-0 9, Ty Tatum 3 2-4 9, Noah Higgins 0 0-0 0, Dewayne Garrett 4 1-4 10, Shamari Simmons 4 6-9 15, J.P. McNealy 0 2-4 2, Micah Harris 4 0-2 8, Jaylon Bass 4 0-3 8. Totals 23 11-26 60.
SAKS (2-4) – Tyler Smith 2 0-0 4, Zaejuan Johnson 2 0-0 4, Daveon Dukes 2 3-4 7, Leonta Jones 2 2-6 6, Zay Elston 2 5-7 9, Benji Wilson 0 0-0 0, Kyle Goedde 1 0-1 2, Marreon Thomas 1 2-2 4, Jordan Casper 3 6-7 13. Totals 15 18-27 49.
Clay Central 15 24 14 7 – 60
Saks 17 12 10 10 – 49

3-point goals: Clay Central 3 (P. Garrett, D. Garrett, Simmons); Saks 1 (Cosper). Fouled out: Dukes. Total fouls: Clay Central 22, Saks 20. Officials: Robinson, Smith, Davis.

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