E.A. Sports Today

Riding Kite tails

Freshman takes a page from his favorite player’s book, takes over game and leads Anniston into regional finals

Antonio Kite (4) may be only a freshman, but Annison gladly puts the game in his hands. (Photo by Shannon Fagan)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – There aren’t many coaches or teams who would put their fate in the hands of a freshman in what amounts to their biggest game of the year, but Anniston’s Antonio Kite isn’t your typical freshman.

The Bulldogs gladly put the game in his hands Tuesday and their recognized leader did what he does best. Taking a page from the book of his favorite player, Lebron James, he simply took over.

Kite scored 25 points – six in overtime – ran the floor and had the ball in his hands at all the critical moments, leading Anniston to a 58-53 win over Oneonta in the boys Class 4A Northeast Regional semifinals.

The Bulldogs (24-7) will play either Talladega or DAR for the trip to the Final Four in Birmingham. Talladega was leading after one quarter, 27-10.
“No. 4 is really a special player,” Oneonta coach Brandon Crews said. “Right there in the fourth quarter and overtime you could tell … he just had that refuse-to-lose mentality. They had the best player on the floor at the end of the game. 

“I really can’t (believe he’s a freshman). Somebody needs to check that birth certificate.”

Crews wasn’t advocating any kind of conspiracy, that’s just the former White Plains’ assistant’s way of saying “Spoodie” plays a lot older than his years.
The full box score will show he shot 10-of-19 from the field, grabbed five rebounds, had three assists and three steals in 36 minutes.
What he did in overtime came after shaking off a turnover that gave Oneonta one last chance to break the Bulldogs’ heart at the end of the regulation.

He had the ball in his hands as usual trying to dribble down the clock when Oneonta’s Deondre Elliott knocked it away. The ball eventually made its way to Ethan Kritner, who had a good look at a 3 from the left corner that drew iron as the horn sounded.
But he shook it off and in overtime he scored six straight points for the Bulldogs. Ladreka Hall opened the scoring in overtime, then, in order, Kite made a layup, banked in a short runner and powerful drove the lane for another layup.

“He’s done things like that for us all year,” Anniston coach Torry Brown said. “He’s still young and I have to remember that he is a freshman, but I try to tell him to play with force. He likes the oohs and ahs a little bit, but when he plays with force he’s really tough to stop.”
“We believe in Antonio; he can do a lot for us,” Hall said. “I try to tell him in games all the time, we all tell him, you’ve got to take it away, you’ve got to handle it. It’s your game, you’ve got to finish the game.”
Kite likes being in that situation as much as his teammates like him to be in it.He scored seven straight points between the third and fourth quarters to take the Bulldogs from a 42-36 deficit to a 43-42 lead.

“I love that situation,” he said. “Lebron James is my favorite player and that’s what he does, he takes over. I was real nervous about this one because there were a lot of people and the atmosphere was big but I just had to come through for the team.”

Oneonta knew it would have to make shots to have a chance against Kite and the Bulldogs. They came out firing and took a 33-27 halftime lead behind a barrage of 3-pointers.

The Indians (20-9) were 7-of-17 from behind the arc in the first half, but after the Bulldogs adjusted their defense they were only 2-of-11 the rest of the game.
As for Anniston’s title game opponent, Talladega set out to set the tempo right from the start to avoid another good-shooting team from jumping out on them early and having to play play catch-up.

The Tigers had been able to come back from early punches at other times this year, but in a win-or-go-home scenario like this where momentum plays such a vital role it’s not worth the risk of falling behind.

They wanted to be, as coach Chucky Miller described, “very disruptive” in the first quarter and jumped on DAR from the start. They shot 11-for-20 from the floor to open a 27-10 lead and as a result are now playing in the regional finals for the third year in a row.

D’Corian Wilson had 11 of his 16 points in the first quarter. 

“I had to set the tempo,” Wilson said. “They wanted to come out and make us play their game and we wanted to play a fast-paced game. The main focus was playing defense. The offense was gonna come.” 

A lot of the Tigers’ offense came from their dominance of the boards. They collected an incredible 31 offensive rebounds, off which they scored 40 second-chance points.

“They were just so much longer than us,” DAR forward Landen Harbin said. “They got just about all of them. I usually get a bunch every game, but I doubt I got any at all.”

Kobe Simmons led the Tigers with 28 points and 12 rebounds. If the first quarter was Wilson’s time, the third belonged to Simmons. He scored 17 in the quarter when the Tiger stretched their 18-point halftime lead to 67-38.

Anniston 58, Oneonta 53 (OT)
ONEONTA (20-9) –
Brandon Howard 3-6 3-4 9, Deondre Elliott 1-4 0-0 3, Daniel McCary 6-11 0-1 18, Jacob Green 0-5 2-2 2, Eric Moore 7-16 1-3 15, Davin Young 0-1 0-0 0, Eli Buse 0-0 0-0 0, Ethan Kritner 2-5 0-0 6, A.C. Rockett 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-48 6-10 53.
ANNISTON (24-7) – Antonio Kite 10-19 4-10 25, Ladreka Hall 4-7 2-3 10, Kwame Milton 1-5 0-2 3, Hunter Rouse 0-0 0-0 0, Theron Montgomery 2-10 0-0 4, Malcolm Harvey 1-5 1-1 3, William Fairley 6-10 0-0 13, Jordan Ferrell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-56 7-16 58.
Oneonta         19       14       9         6         5         –          53
Anniston        14       13       11       10       10       –          58
3-point goals: Oneonta 9-28 (Howard 0-1, Elliott 1-4, McCary 6-10, Green 0-5, Moore 0-2, Young 0-1, Kritner 2-5); Anniston 3-13 (Kite 1-4, Hall 0-1, Milton 1-4, Fairley 1-4). Rebounds: Oneonta 30 (Howard 8, Moore 6); Anniston 41 (Hall 9, Montgomery 7). Fouled out: Howard. Total fouls: Oneonta 18, Anniston 12. Officials: Anthony Dupree, Octavius Hamilton, Rip Nabors.

Talladega 85, DAR 59
DAR (17-15) –
CJ Sims 3-11 2-5 8, Koltyn Harbin 2-4 0-0 4, Martius Leonard 6-11 2-6 16, Landen Harbin 4-10 8-8 19, Nick Harbin 0-3 0-0 0, Kevin Ko 0-0 0-0 0, R.J. Myers 0-0 2-2 2, Justin Subblefield 2-4 1-1 5, Cade McConnell 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Buchanan 0-1 2-2 2, Howie Boxley 1-2 0-0 3, Bradley Aultman 0-0 0-0 0, Benjamin Greene 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-46 17-24 59.
TALLADEGA (22-8) –Jaquon Chatman 2-6 0-0 4, Arron Greene 4-8 0-0 8, D’Corian Wilson 6-15 2-5 16, J.Q. Wilson 2-4 5-6 9, Kobe Simmons 12-20 4-7 28, Keandre Brand 0-2 0-0 0, Nigel Scales 3-11 0-0 6, Michael McGregor 1-4 0-1 2, Rontavious Barclay 3-5 0-0 8, Raderious Montgomery 2-4 0-1 4, Brocker Simmons 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 35-79 11-20 85.
DAR           10 17 11 21  –   59
Talladega  27 18 22 18  –  85

3-point goals: DAR 6-23 (Sims 0-6, Leonard 2-5, L. Harbin 3-6, N. Harbin 0-1, Stubblefield 0-2, Buchanan 0-1, Boxley 1-2); Talladega 4-18 (Chatman 0-2, Greene 0-1, D. Wilson 2-4, K. Simmons 0-3, Brand 0-1, Scales 0-3, McGregor 0-2, Barclay 2-2). Rebounds: DAR 26 (Sims 6); Talladega 56 (K. Simmons 12, Greene 8). Technical fouls: N. Harbin, D. Wilson. Total fouls: DAR 17, Talladega 20. Officials: Abdullah Salaam, Mark Freeman, Fred Bates. 

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