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Defense, free throw shooting power Anniston past Handley, into Final Four for third straight year; story will be updated

Anniston 52, Handley 37
Jackson 46, Vigor 41
Geneva 54, St. James 43
Rogers 58, Good Hope 41
At Bill Harris Arena, Birmingham
Geneva (20-7) vs. Rogers (26-8), Friday, 9 a.m.
Anniston (24-3) vs. Jackson (29-2), Friday, 2 p.m.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – The good thing about having a team with so many weapons is when the main one is stuck on the launching pad another is right there to pick her up – until she can refire the engines.

Besides, the defense can always save the day if you’re the Anniston girls basketball team.

Anniston’s Allasha Dudley was having an off day shooting the ball, especially in the first half, but Asia Barclay in the post and the defense coach Eddie Bullock harps on daily were there to keep them in the game.

Behind Barclay’s rebounding, shot blocking and occasional scoring the Lady Dawgs were able to establish a lead late in the first quarter and never lost it in a 52-37 victory over Handley for the Class 4A Northeast Regional title.

It’s the Lady Dawgs’ third straight trip to the Final Four – they won it all last year – and sixth since 2014. They will play Jackson (29-2) in the state semifinals Friday at 2 p.m. in Birmingham’s Bill Harris Arena.

“The key to that goes back to defense,” Bullock said. “We got some new people in and we’ve got a couple of young freshmen in there. Things are different when you get on the championship level. You can’t afford to make those types of mistakes here and in Birmingham.

“I knew if we didn’t play defense we were not going to win this game. I’ve got great rebounders, great shooters, but I’m old school. I just think if you’re going to win championships you’ve got to play some defense.”
Defense and Dudley is a deadly combination. Usually Dudley is a lethal gunner, with Serena Hardy and Alisia Person adding to the count of 3s, but curiously the Lady Dawgs did not hit a 3-pointer in the game (0-for-11). Just as curious, they didn’t have an assist.

“We have to go by what the sheet says, but that’s the first time I guess in the history of me coaching we’ve never had an assist,” Bullock said. “I’ve never seen that before, not those two.”

Dudley did lead all scorers in the game with 26 points, but that’s because she was almost automatic from the free throw line. She was 16-of-20 for the game and at one point in the second half hit 12 in a row.

“That’s not unusual to me, because I know how good she can shoot free throws,” Bullock said. “She just found another way to score.”

“Coach always tells us if our jump shot is off find another way to score,” Dudley said. “I knew they were going to start fouling and I am a good free throw shooter so I was going to the line and making them.”

It was a free throw shooting contest. The Lady Dawgs were 24-of-39 as a team, while Handley was 19-of-23. The Lady Tigers’ leading scorer, Teanna Watts, was 18-of-20 at the line and finished with 24 points.

Until Dudley regained her shooting touch, Barclay was there underneath, blocking shots and rebounding the shots Handley needed to make and didn’t to have a chance on the neutral floor. The teams played three times earlier with Anniston winning twice (both at Anniston). She finished with 21 rebounds.

“I attribute that to Anniston – their size, their speed, their athletic ability,” Handley coach Courtney Screws said. “We can’t get anything off in the paint because of 35 (Barclay). Even Dudley, one on one with her you saw how many steals she had. That’s all because of Anniston, nothing because we can’t score, it’s just what a good defensive team they are and how athletic they are.”

The Lady Dawgs took their first lead on Hardy’s bucket with 1:08 left in the first quarter. Handley drew even at 13 on a scoop layup by Watts with 5:33 left in the second, then Anniston didn’t allow a point the rest of the half while taking a 20-13 halftime lead.

Dudley was only 1-of-7 from the floor at the time and still was their leading scorer, but Barclay had four points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked three shots (although it seemed like a lot more). She finished with 22 rebounds.

“If I didn’t do that we’d probably been over there crying like how they were,” Barclay said.

Girls Championship Game
Anniston 52, Handley 37
Ariana Kyles 0-5 1-2 1, Jamiya Heard 0-2 0-0 0, Teanna Watts 3-16 18-20 24, Grace Rittenhouse 2-7 0-0 4, Emelia Askew 1-4 0-0 2, Tiana Nolan 0-0 0-0 0, Takeria Tucker 0-1 0-1 0, Takeriauna Mosely 1-5 0-0 2, Jayla Trammell 2-2 0-0 4, Shaniah Allen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 9-42 19-23 37.
ANNISTON –Allasha Dudley 5-16 16-20 26, Alisia Person 0-4 1-2 1, Serena Hardy 3-8 5-10 11, Aaliyah Henson 0-0 0-0 0, Asia Barclay 4-9 1-5 22, Tiauna Thomas 2-4 1-2 5, Akayla Perry 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 14-42 24-39 52.
Handley                 10   3   7   17   –  37
Anniston               11   9 13   19   –  52
3-point goals: Handley 0-3 (Watts 0-2, Mosely 0-1); Anniston 0-11 (Dudley 0-4, Person 0-3, Hardy 0-3, Perry 0-1). Rebounds: Handley 33 (Rittenhouse 9); Anniston 39 (Barclay 22). Fouled out: Kyles, Heard, Mosely. Total fouls: Handley 29, Anniston 19. Officials: Gregg, Kelley, Salaam.

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