The holiday tournaments are in the books, capping what was an entertaining first half of the high school basketball season. There was no shortage of quality basketball played right here in the tri-county area during the past two months. We have surprise teams that are on the rise, and we have great teams that are primed to contend for regional and state titles.
It was an exciting start, but the real fun begins now with the start of the second half of the season. Here’s a few things to keep an eye on as our local teams begin their stretch runs:
Will any of the boys teams seperate themselves from the pack in Class 6A, Area 15? This is arguably the toughest area in the state from top to bottom. No. 1 Bob Jones, No. 7 Florence, No. 10 Austin and unranked Decatur all have talented teams capable of going far in the postseason. Austin is currently 2-1 against Area 15 opponents, but the Black Bears looked out of sync while going 0-2 in the Huntsville Times Classic. Decatur, on the other hand, appears to be on the rise, and the Red Raiders’ lineup will be getting a huge boost in the coming weeks when starting post player Kendrick Cowan returns from a hand injury. Keep an eye on this race, because the two teams that advance out of the Area 15 tournament could very well be playing in the Northwest Regional final.
Contenders, contenders and more contenders. That’s what we have with our local girls teams. The area is rich with talented teams this season. The unfortunate part is that several of these teams are in the same classification. In Class 5A, Brewer, Athens and Lawrence County all have teams capable of making it to the Final Four. There’s a similar situation in Class 3A, where Clements, West Morgan and Danville all reside in the same brutal area. Which teams will break through? Who knows? There’s not a wide gap between these teams. But one thing is certain, though. The odds that there will be a local team representing both classifications in the Final Four are very good.
The quality girls basketball doesn’t stop in the classifications mentioned above. Class 6A No. 5 Austin is having its best season since 2005-06, while R.A. Hubbard, led by junior superstar Alex Gholston, appears primed to compete for a second straight Class 1A state title.
Speaking of state title contenders, how about the Tanner boys? Currently going about 10 deep, the Class 2A No. 1 Rattlers cruised through December. Matthew Hines, Greg Maclin and company practically have everyone back from last season’s championship team, and the Rattlers have lived up to the preseason hype.
A couple surprise teams emerged in the area during the first half of the season. On the boys side, Class 4A Priceville (14-2) and Class 3A Elkmont (9-5) are off to their best starts in years. Class 4A West Limestone (12-4) has done the same thing on the girls side. Will these remarkable runs continue? I wouldn’t bet against them, so don’t be surprised when these three are playing in the Northwest Regional in February.
Speaking of the Northwest Regional, two local Class 4A boys teams have that week circled. These two teams also feature two of the best players you’ve probably never seen. East Lawrence guard Orlando Davis is fantastic. Averaging 25 points and 10 rebounds per game, he’s definitely one of the most entertaining players in tri-county area. West Limestone forward Preston Herring, an Austin Peay signee, isn’t too shabby himself. If you’ve never seen this kid play, then head to a local gym and check him out. You won’t be disappointed.
So many storylines. So much good basketball. Watching all of this play out is going to be entertaining, and that’s a gurantee.
Tis the season for basketball. With the holidays comes tournament hoops. Dozens of high school basketball tournaments are scheduled to take place in north Alabama during the holiday break, and one of the bigger events is already in full swing.
The Huntsville Times Ladies Classic tipped off Wednesday at Bob Jones, with three local teams advancing to the quarterfinals. Brewer will play Buckhorn today at 1 p.m. Thursday, and Austin will play Athens at 2:30 p.m. (the game time had to be pushed back an hour since Athens City Schools are still in session).
Because all three of these teams are on the same side of the bracket, there’s a good chance one of them will advance to the championship game. That semifinals is scheduled for Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Quick recap: Vestavia scored on its first three plays from scrimmage to build an insurmountable lead in this Class 6A first round playoff game. Austin ends a season in which it won six of its first seven and made its first postseason appearance under second-year head coach Jeremy Perkins.
Statistical leaders: Seth Lynch (Austin), 70 yards on 11 carries and six receptions for 54 yards; Josh Walker (Austin), 61 rushing yards, 32 receiving, one TD; George Salem (Vestavia), 17 carries, 182 yards, 2 TDs.
Quotable: “This one started it off in a bad way. Those early scores gave them the momentum, and I knew that Vestavia is a fast-starting team as many times I have gone against them. We have struggled the last three or four weeks, and we needed to start fast. We needed that for the psyche of our kids. That was about the worst start that could have happened to us. We were not able to recover from it at all.” — Austin head coach Jeremy Perkins
Storylines for tonight’s first-round game at Ogle Stadium:
Austin was awarded a first-round game at home after a ruling against Clay-Chalkville stripped the Cougars of nine wins and their region title. The decision improved every team in the region by one spot, with Austin finishing as the runner-up.
That ruling was held up in courts for more than a week, so Austin didn’t know which team it would play until a little more than 24 hours ago. It’ll be interesting to see how well the Black Bears have prepared amid distractions.
Austin must slow Vestavia Hill’s running game. In the past three games, the Black Bears have been tested defensively, allowing 55, 38 and 42 points to Clay-Chalkville, Pell City and Hartselle. In last week’s 42-14 loss to Hartselle, the Black Bears allowed 425 rushing yards.
This is Ausitin’s first playoff appearance under second-year head coach Jeremy Perkins and first since 2008.
Timeline of events leading up to the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Alabama High School’s ruling against Clay-Chalkville for the use of an ineligible player to stand:
Oct. 26: The AHSAA stripped Clay-Chalkville of nine wins, fined the school $300 and placed the Cougars on one-year probation for the use of an ineligible player.
Oct. 29: The Central Board of the AHSAA denied an appeal by Clay-Chalkville to restore its nine wins and keep the Cougars in the playoffs.
Tuesday: A Jefferson County Circuit Court judge granted Clay-Chalkville injunctive relief that placed the Cougars back in the 6A state playoffs. The move slid Austin, which improved to second with the AHSAA’s initial ruling, to third place and forced the Black Bears to travel to Hoover in the first round. The decision also knocked Gadsden City to fifth place and out of the playoffs.
Wednesday: Morgan and Etowah counties filed injunctions to keep Austin at home and Gadsden City in the playoffs. The AHSAA then responded with a motion to the Alabama Supreme Court, asking for the dismissal of the three conflicting injunctions and the permission to allow its initial ruling to stand.
Thursday: The Alabama Supreme Court sided with the AHSAA, giving Austin a first-round game at Ogle Stadium and keeping Gadsden City in the playoffs.
The Alabama Supreme Court ruled in favor of the AHSAA on Thursday, allowing the association’s original ruling against Clay-Chalkville to stand.
The move gives Austin a first-round playoff game at home, rather than forcing the Black Bears to travel to Hoover on Friday.
“I’m sure everybody that is involved in the situation is just relived to know the outcome and relieved to know who they play, where they play and when they play,” Austin head coach Jeremy Perkins said. “Frankly, for the last two or three days, that’s been totally up in the air.”
First, it was Hoover.
Then Vestavia Hills.
And back to Hoover. Now, it’s Vestavia Hills again.
Whichever team Austin High faces in Friday night’s opening round of the Class 6A state playoffs, Black Bears head coach Jeremy Perkins persists his team will be prepared.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association filed a petition Wednesday, requesting the Alabama Supreme Court decide Austin’s opening-round opponent.
“We’re continuing to prepare for Vestavia with a contingency plan if we play Hoover. That’s basically how we’re handling it,” Perkins said. “We have prepared for Vestavia the bulk of our week. But do have a plan in place to give our kids the best chance to win if we do have to go to Hoover.”
Decatur Daily staff writer Bayne Hughes reports that Morgan County Circuit Court Judge Steve Haddock issued a temporary injunction this afternoon that would keep Austin at home in the opening round of the state football playoffs.
Haddock’s order came in response to a lawsuit filed this morning by the Decatur school board.
The Morgan injunction was the second of the day allowing the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s original ruling to stay in effect. An Etowah County Circuit Court judge issued a temporary injunction this morning that would uphold Clay-Chalkville’s penalties and reinstate Gadsden City High into the playoffs. That injunction would also keep Austin the second seed with a home game.
Forget Austin’s first-round playoff game at Ogle. The Black Bears will go to Hoover after all.
Clay-Chalkville got its recent penalty lifted by a circuit court and will remain Class 6A, Region 7′s top seed. The move slides Oxford to second and Austin back to third, where the Black Bears originally placed.
Austin head coach Jeremy Perkins returns to Hoover, where he was an assistant coach before landing the job at Austin.
Quarterback Chris Sparkman and Austin have lost three straight but get a clean start with the arrival of the Class 6A state playoffs. (Daily photo by Jeronimo Nisa)
The state playoffs couldn’t have arrived at a more perfect time for Austin High, which has lost three straight.
Coachspeak dictates that all teams, regardless of what they accomplished during the regular season, are 0-0 right now. That’s great for the Black Bears, who have channelled their focus on a new start.
Here is what Austin head coach Jeremy Perkins said about his team’s recent struggles:
“Football season is a grind. It’s a long season. It’s easy to get lulled into the routine and stop getting better, and I think that’s something that happened to this football team. We got lulled into the grind and the routine.”