E.A. Sports Today

Anniston sweeps seeds

For first time since 2012, same school nails down No. 1 seeds in Calhoun County Basketball Tournament brackets

Eddie Bullock’s Anniston girls are the No. 1 seed in the Calhoun County Basketball Tournament for the sixth year in a row and 10th time since 2011. The Anniston boys team (on the cover) is also the top seed in its tournament bracket. (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Torry Brown has never campaigned for a seeding at the Calhoun County Basketball Tournament meeting but Friday he was prepared to lobby hard for his Anniston boys team to be the No. 1 team in the event.

Turns out he didn’t have to.

At 10-1 going into Saturday’s final game of 2020 – the Bulldogs are following the county system’s lead of shuttering competition until Jan. 1 – he was comfortable about his team deserving to be the tournament favorite.

By the same token, Anniston girls coach Eddie Bullock might have been in for a debate. There was some pre-meeting chatter that Oxford could challenge the Lady Dawgs’ for the No. 1 based on the results of some common opponents.

Turned out that didn’t matter either.

Both Anniston teams were installed as the favorite in their respective brackets when the coaches met at Saks to seed the field Friday – a month before the tournament is scheduled to open.

It’s the first time since 2012 the same school holds the No. 1 seed in both the boys and girls brackets. That’s also the same year Anniston was last the No. 1 seed in the boys tournament.

“I thought we had gotten off to one of the better starts that we have since I’ve been there … and I just thought this was our best chance,” Brown said. “I thought the last four years Oxford and Sacred Heart were clearly the top seed coming in.

“I don’t know if there’s a lot of difference between us and Oxford besides the amount of games that we played, but I felt with the games we have gotten in that was enough to justify getting the No. 1.”

The Bulldogs’ only loss came to 7A Thompson in Huntsville, less than 18 hours after winning a tough area road game at Handley, 150 miles in the opposite direction.

The benefit of both teams being No. 1 is both will play after each other as long as they’re still alive as tournament officials try to do all they can to keep teams together to minimize COVID-19 risks for spectators.

As it is, the gym will be cleared after each game to allow venue cleaning with two hours being allowed for each game. Only 240 patrons will be allowed in the gym at one time during the Jan. 16 opening games at Saks with 720 allowed when the event moves to Jacksonville State starting Jan. 18.

All tickets will be sold electronically. The tournament will offer a $20 all-day pass for Jan. 16 and 18 or $7 individual game tickets. All gates in the coliseum will be open to help promote social distancing.

Typically, the tournament would be seeded Jan. 3. Organizers brought the coaches together this early partly for administrative purposes and partly because most of the teams aren’t playing games during the holiday season for COVID-related restrictions.

In a bow to the times, for this year only teams will be allowed to play outside competition without penalty once they are eliminated from the tournament. In the past, teams were prohibited from playing any outside games during the week of the county basketball tournament.

The top four seeds on the boys side are Anniston, Oxford, White Plains and Jacksonville. The top four seeds on the girls side are Anniston, Oxford, Jacksonville and Ohatchee.

Don’t look now but if Faith Christian beats JCA in the 8-9 boys game, Faith coach Schuessler Ware would go against Anniston for the first time since retiring from a legendary 19-season tenure there after the 2016 season.

There actually wasn’t much debate at the top end of either bracket. Brown nominated his team without opposition. There was some discussion about Oxford challenging Anniston for the No. 1 girls seed based on its home win over Handley against Anniston’s road loss to Handley, but in the end the Lady Dawgs had too much support.

“I didn’t really worry about it but it really didn’t matter to me,” Bullock said. “What they don’t know is I had a starter missing when we played Handley and you knew the situation about the buses and all. It’s like when we lost to Pleasant Grove, I had all my seniors sitting out and three starters missing and played them last night and beat them by 14. I knew what the circumstances were.”

Oxford coach Melissa Bennett might have debated stronger if her team had beaten Spring Garden for the second time this season Thursday night. The Lady Jackets beat the reigning 1A state champions in the Champions Thanksgiving Classic to snap the Lady Panthers’ 25-game winning streak, but lost to them by 13 Thursday.

“A lot of times if it’s a tossup you go off common opponents,” Bennett said, “but my thing is there’s a lot of respect that’s gained from what you’ve done in the past and the type of program you are and Anniston has been the No. 1 seed the entire five years I’ve been at Oxford and I think they’ve earned that respect.

“Anniston is a very established program. Yeah, (Handley) is one common opponent, but I don’t think that takes away from their whole body of work.”

(Times TBA)
(Overall, county records as of noon Dec. 18)
Jan. 16 (at Saks HS)
No. 11 Donoho (1-5, 0-1) vs. No. 14 Wellborn (0-4, 0-2), 10 a.m.
No. 7 Alexandria (2-4, 0-1) vs. No. 10 Pleasant Valley (2-1, 1-1), 2 p.m.
No. 12 Weaver (1-6, 0-4) vs. No. 13 Ohatchee (0-5, 0-1), 6 p.m.
Jan. 18 (at JSU)
No. 6 Saks (2-0, 2-0) vs. Donoho-Wellborn winner, noon
No. 5 Piedmont (3-2, 2-0) vs. Weaver-Ohatchee winner, 4 p.m.
No. 9 Jacksonville Christian (6-1, 3-0) vs. No. 8 Faith Christian (3-4, 1-0), 8 p.m.
Jan. 19 (at JSU)
No. 3 White Plains (7-3, 0-2) vs. Saks/Donoho/Wellborn, 4 p.m.
No. 2 Oxford (8-2, 1-0) vs. Alexandria-Pleasant Valley winner, 8 p.m.
Jan. 20 (at JSU)
No. 1 Anniston (10-1, 1-0) vs. JCA-Faith winner, 4 p.m.
No. 4 Jacksonville (4-4, 1-0) vs. Piedmont/Weaver/Ohatchee, 8 p.m.
Jan. 22 (at JSU)
Semifinals, 2 p.m., 6 p.m.
Jan. 23 (at JSU)
Championship game, 8 p.m.

(Times TBA)
(Overall, county records as of noon Dec. 18)

Jan. 16 (at Saks)
No. 11 Faith Christian (3-2, 0-1) vs. No. 14 Wellborn (0-1, 0-0), noon
No. 12 Pleasant Valley (0-7, 0-6) vs. No. 13 Jacksonville Christian (1-4, 0-1), 4 p.m.
Jan. 18 (at JSU)
No. 8 White Plains (4-5, 1-3) vs. No. 9 Saks (0-1, 0-1), 10 a.m.
No. 5 Piedmont (4-3, 2-0) vs. Pleasant Valley-JCA winner, 2 p.m.
No. 6 Alexandria (5-5, 2-1) vs. Faith-Wellborn winner, 6 p.m.
Jan. 19 (at JSU)
No. 7 Weaver (4-2, 2-1) vs. No. 10 Donoho (2-5, 1-0), 6 p.m.
Jan. 20 (at JSU)
No. 1 Anniston (7-3, 1-0) vs. White Plains-Saks winner, 6 p.m.
Jan. 21 (at JSU)
No. 4 Ohatchee (5-4, 1-3) vs. Piedmont/Pleasant Valley/JCA, 4 p.m.
No. 3 Jacksonville (4-4, 4-0) vs. Alexandria/Faith/Wellborn, 6 p.m.
No. 2 Oxford (8-4, 3-0) vs. Weaver-Donoho winner, 8 p.m.
Jan. 22 (at JSU)
Semifinals, 4 p.m., 8 p.m.
Jan. 23 (at JSU)
Championship game, 6 p.m.

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