E.A. Sports Today

Big man, big plans

Anniston wins 4A Area 8 tournament title behind big game from big man Harris, awaits outcome of Saturday’s Jacksonville-White Plains game to determine subregion opponent

Anniston freshman Hezekiah Harris pulls up for a shot in the lane against Handley in Friday’s area tournament championship game. (Photos by Greg Warren)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Hezekiah Harris burst into the county’s sports consciousness this fall as a dominant defensive force on the football field. He turned his attention to basketball this winter and arrived in that sport in the second half Friday night.


The freshman will tell you he’s been hooping long before he played football, but he’s been feeling his first-year way through things to settle into Anniston coach Torry Brown’s system.

He was a true force in the second half of the Bulldogs’ Class 4A Area 8 Tournament final, scoring 14 of his 18 points after halftime as the Bulldogs pulled away from Handley 64-43.

The Dawgs (16-10) will host the loser of Saturday’s Jacksonville-White Plains area final in the subregion round Tuesday night. Handley (18-8) will travel to Saturday night’s winner.

“I love that boy, I really love that boy,” tournament MVP Javen Croft said of his 6-foot-5 wingman. “That man’s going to be a problem in the upcoming years. People out there have seen him playing for a little minute, but he’s come in as a freshman and worked and been a major factor in our team. I love it.

“He’s too big. He’s too strong. He’s a grown man. They don’t have anything on him. I love when he comes in and does that. I sacrifice all my stuff for him to be great. I’ll go play defense and get all the rebounds and when it’s time to play offense I’ll get him in the area and let him do his thing – and if he misses I’m going to clean it up.”


Together, Croft and Harris combined for 24 points, 16 rebounds and at least a half-dozen blocked shots against the Tigers. Just as Croft suggested, Harris did the scoring and he did the cleaning up.

“We’ve had games now (Harris) has been our best player,” Brown said. “He’s played well for maybe the last 10 games or so. We started off playing one big guy because he just didn’t know a lot, but you could tell he was really good so I knew eventually he would force us to play him and Javen.

“Javen’s our best player, so you can’t take him out and put (Harris) in, but he kept getting better and better and sort of forced his way in there. I told somebody that by the time we got to maybe midseason that we were going to have to play him and find a way to play him and Javen together … You put their numbers together, you’ve just got to have them both on the floor.”

Harris had a hand in the Dawgs’ 18-2 run in the second quarter to take a 12-point lead, but it was most Croft and Delroy Francis inside and back-to-back 3s by Kyron Brown. The Tigers stopped with run with 3:28 left in the half and went on a nice run of their own to cut the margin to three at halftime.

Harris turned it up in the second half. He had the Bulldogs’ first five points and nine in the third quarter as they regained that 12-point lead. One of his buckets was a soft lob from Croft to finish some nice around-the-floor ball movement. 

He even ran interference for his teammates. On the possession after the lob, Malik Bailey hit a corner 3 over a Harris screen.

“I think I played good, but I’m kind of mad because I didn’t dunk,” Harris said. “I’m way more comfortable now.”

There wasn’t much slowing down for Anniston in the second half. They didn’t even miss a beat when Auburn football commit Jayden Lewis went out with a leg cramp with 6:23 to play. They were leading by eight at the time and wound up winning by 21.

HANDLEY (18-8) – Tamarious Treadwell 4 2-5 12, Cannon Kyles 4 1-2 9, Devontae Higgins 1 2-2 5, Jay Haynes 0 2-6 2, Terrence Tucker 3 3-5 10, Amazah Williams 1 0-0 2, Jordan West 0 0-0 0, Daquavian Slaughter 1 1-2 3. Totals 14 11-22 43.
ANNISTON (16-10) – Jayden Lewis 1 0-0 3, Hezekiah Harris 8 2-2 18, Delroy Francis 4 3-6 11, Kyron Brown 3 1-4 10, Javen Croft 3 0-0 6, Malik Bailey 3 0-0 7, Jacorey Lane 1 1-5 3, Davin Coleman 1 2-2 4, Kenneth Price 1 0-0 2, Isaiah Allen 0 0-0 0, Jace Robertson 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 9-19 64.

Handley1114810 –43
Anniston7211719 –64

3-point goals: Handley 4 (Treadwell 2, Higgins, Tucker); Anniston 5 (Brown 3, Lewis, Bailey). Technical fouls: Anniston coach Brown. Total fouls: Handley 16, Anniston 13. Officials: Railey, Hollingsworth, Wood.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Javen Croft, Anniston (MVP); Kyron Brown, Anniston; Hezekiah Harris, Anniston; Jayden Lewis, Anniston; Terrance Tucker, Handley; Cannon Kyles, Handley; Jay Haynes, Handley; JaQuintez Garrett, Talladega; Najeh Swain, Talladega; Sylvester Smith, Munford; B.J. Anderson, Munford.

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