E.A. Sports Today

Round 1 to Talladega

Class 4A Area 9 race heats up as Talladega rallies twice to trim Anniston

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
TALLADEGA – The first full-on engagement in the Wars of Area 9 played out Tuesday night and after this battle the race promises to be as intense as projected.
The area figures to have three of the top 10 teams in Class 4A. The only problem is only two can make it out to sub-region play. That means as tight as things will be the defending state champion, Talladega, might not even make it out of its backyard.
Anniston got an early leg up with a road win over Lincoln last week, but Talladega kept the Bulldogs from getting too far out front and now is the only team without an area loss after roaring back to beat the Bulldogs 68-60 Tuesday night.
(UPDATE: For what they’re worth, the first state “rankings” came out Wednesday and Anniston was the only one of the three listed in 4A, at No. 3. Teams are “nominated” for this writers poll, not voted upon.)

The Tigers overcame a 42-point game by Anniston’s Antonio Kite and a nine-point deficit in the third quarter to win.
“We just knew from the experience of last year the area is kind of tough,” Tigers forward D’Corian Wilson said. “We just knew we had come out here and play ball. It was a back and forth game. It was just who wanted it more. We just knew we had to gut it out and came away with the victory. It was a real fun game.”
“We got a big edge with this,” Tigers forward Kobe Simmons said. “We let everybody know in the area that we (mean business) and we’re going to continue to prove that.”
Actually, the Tigers came back from nine-point deficits in each half to take leads.
Kite was brilliant for the Bulldogs. He hit seven 3-pointers in the game. He scored 10 straight points for his team between the first and second quarters lifting it a 22-13 lead. The Tigers rallied and grabbed a 30-27 lead at halftime.
Kite had another 10-point tear in the third quarter to put the Bulldogs up 46-37, but the Tigers rallied again to make it a two-point game going into the fourth quarter.
“He plays best when the best is needed and we needed all 42 tonight,” Anniston coach Torry Brown said. “He was fantastic. He’s always fantastic, even when for him he has a bad game. It was a really impressive performance.”
The Tigers came roaring back behind Wilson and Simmons. Wilson scored 28 points in the game, but had 15 in the second half, 10 in the fourth quarter. Simmons had 17 points and 18 rebounds; he had 13 points and 12 rebounds in the second half.
“We had to come out strong,” Simmons said. “Anniston is a tough team in the area. We played them in the region championship game last year at JSU so we knew they were going to come out with a lot of force so we had to crank up the intensity. We had to come out and show them what we got.”
What they got the most of was rebounds. In addition to Simmons’ big night around the glass, Arron Green had 10 rebounds and Michael McGregor had eight. Most significantly, the Tigers had 13 offensive rebounds in the game.
“They probably outrebounded us 3-to-1,” Brown said. “I hadn’t seen the numbers, but I’m sure tomorrow when I watch the film they’ll have had 15 offensive rebounds. We had some unforced turnovers, too. I think after it’s all said and done I thought they had 12 or 13 more possessions that us. We’ve got to be a little tougher in some areas, especially offensive rebounding and being careful with the ball.”
While both teams were battling down the stretch to get the upper hand, the Tigers delivered the biggest play of the game when McGregor and Green blocked back-to-back shots on the same possession with 2:03 to play.
The Tigers were leading 59-56 when Tahj Jones got the ball inside to Malcolm Harvey, but McGregor was there to bat the shot away. Jones recovered it and tried to put it back, but Green smacked his shot aside. The Tigers got the loose ball out to Wilson, who finished it off with a layup. 
The Bulldogs missed on the next trip down and Simmons beat them back down the floor on a 2-on-1 with Wilson to put Talladega up 63-56 with just over a minute to play.
Kite’s final 3-pointer of the game made it 65-60 then Talladega closed it out at the free throw line.

“It was good for me to help make a play,” McGregor said of his block. “I saw when they got it and passed it back to him I knew he was going to go up. I had to go up and make a play. That was the turning point in the game.”
On the other side of the area, Lincoln tightened things back up by beating Cleburne County 83-46. Brian Garrett hit five 3-pointers on the way to 21 points and was among four Golden Bears to score in double figures. Tre Garrett had 14 (12 in the first half), J.D. Davis had 11 (all in the second quarter) and Cam Reynolds had 10.
Reese Morrison and Ben Casey both hit three 3-pointers and led the Tigers with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Lincoln coach Doug Ward likened the area race to that of the SEC West in football.
It puts a premium on being the No. 1 seed and hosting the area tournament, and turns the 2-3 semifinal into a potential classic. The games Tuesday night may have tightened up the race, but there’s still a lot of basketball to be played, and despite the loss Brown remains optimistic.
“Honestly, I don’t know if it (the loss) did anything (to impact the race) because somebody’s gonna have to win on the road eventually,” he said. “As long as everybody holds serve at home it’s going to be a tie. We’ve still got so much to do and so many parts that are not with us right now. Down the road our team is going to change and that’s going to be good for us because we need some depth.”
Talladega 68, Anniston 60
ANNISTON (6-3) –
Mark Toyer 2 0-0 5, Antonio Kite 15 5-8 42, Kwame Milton 1 1-2 3, Tahj Jones 2 0-1 5, Tadyn Jones 0 0-0 0, Malcolm Harvey 2 1-2 5, Jackobe Collins 0 0-0 0, Troy Hall 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 7-13 
TALLADEGA (5-1) – Nigel Scales 1 0-0 3, Arron Green 3 3-4 10, Michael McGregor 3 0-0 6, Rontavious Barclay 1 0-0 2, D’Corian Wilson 9 6-9 28, Raderius Montgomery 0 0-0 0, Kobe Simmons 8 1-2 17, Keontae Funderburg 1 0-0 2. Totals 26 10-15 68.
Anniston               17  10 21  12  –  60
Talladega              11  19 16  22  –  68
3-point goals: Anniston 9 (Toyer 1, Kite 7, Tj. Jones); Talladega 6 (Scales, Green, Wilson 4). Total fouls: Anniston 14, Talladega 11. Officials: Holmes, Robinson, Oden.
Lincoln 83, Cleburne County 46
Manney Rollins 1 1-2 3, Reese Morrison 5 0-0 13, Josh Miller 1 3-3 5, Ben Casey 3 2-2 11, Brody Higgins 1 1-1 3, Hudson Miller 2 0-0 6, Rico Jordan 1 0-0 2, Jalen Momon 0 0-0 0, Dearion Prothro 1 1-2 3. Totals 15 8-10 46.
LINCOLN – Javion Surles 3 1-2 8, Cam Reynolds 4 1-2 10, Tre Garrett 5 2-6 14, Steven White 0 1-2 1, Siete Garrett 1 0-2 2, Brian Garrett 8 0-0 21, Tristan Payton 1 1-1 3, K.J. Brown 3 0-0 6, J.D. Davis 4 3-5 11, Tre Hines 3 1-3 7. Totals 32 10-23 83.
Cleburne County               13  13 16  4   –  46
Lincoln                                 25  29 20  9   –  83
3-point goals: Cleburne County 8 (Morrison 3, Casey 3, H. Miller 2); Lincoln 9 (Surles, Reynolds, T. Garrett 2, B. Garrett 5). Total fouls: Cleburne County 18, Lincoln 14.

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