“Area tournaments are tough,” Talladega head coach Chucky Miller said. “You are playing a top 10 team in Sylacauga that has been excellent this year. Coach Golden does such an excellent job every game that I have coached against him. As you can see, that was a game of streaks. It was kind of even then we made a run, they tied it up, it was even for a while then we made a run in the fourth quarter. You have to hang in there in basketball. The last play is over, get to the next play and try to make a good one. You wont make all good plays, but you have to keep your mind in the game. We were in foul trouble with some of our starters and some people on our bench like Josh Madden and Dominic Johnson did a great job."
The Tigers opened the game on a run. Justin Kelly and Trey Riggins scored five points in the quarter to help Talladega take a 21-12 advantage into the second quarter.
The momentum switched in the second quarter thanks to the play of Sylacauga senior Tazz Marbury. Talladega took a 30-14 lead with 4:16 left in the half. The Aggies began chipping away at their lead. Marbury scored four quick points to cut the lead down to 30-22 with 2:04 left in the half. TJ Green’s layup cut the deficit to 30-24 with 1:31 left in the half. Marbury scored another quick four points, including a three point play off a Talladega turnover to bring the Aggies within two points, 30-28 going into halftime.
Sylacauga got their first lead since the start of the game on a Marbury 3-pointer to make it 31-30.
Damion Hawkins sparked a 9-3 run to put Talladega back ahead 39-33. Hawkins on ball defense helped create a turnover, which he took in for a layup to make it 33-31. His layup off a turnover a few possessions later to give Talladega a 37-31 lead with 4:59 left in the third quarter. Josh Madden capped off the run for Talladega with a layup to make it 39-33.
Sylacauga went on an 8-0 run to take a 41-39 lead. Tomas Swain hit a midrange jumper to cut the lead down to 39-37 with a 4:02 left in the third. Marbury stole an outlet pass on the ensuing possession. Tyler Haynes was called for an intentional foul as he grabbed the back of Marbury’s jersey to stop an easy layup.
Marbury nailed both free throws to cut to tie the game at 39 apiece.
Erwin McQueen’s layup off a steal by Marbury gave Sylacauga a 41-39 lead.
Dominic Johnson and the Tigers closed out the period on a 5-0 run. Johnson scored three points during the run, including a layup to with 50 seconds on the clock to put Talladega ahead 44-41.
The momentum turned back into Talladega’s favor and Miller made sure his team kept it. Talladega changed into a 1-3-1 defense, which ultimately hurt the Aggies.
Talladega opened the quarter on a 6-0 run to increase their lead to 50-41. The Tigers defense created four points off steals during the run. Marbury ended the run with a layup to make it 50-43. Hawkins capped off an 11-2 run and sealed the victory with a 3-pointer to give Talladega a 55-43 advantage.
“We changed to a 1-3-1 defense,” Miller said. “We ran it probably two or three games. I don’t know if that is a great defense for us, but we had to do something, because Sylacauga was going through everything we did. We matched up with their shooter and we had to get out on Tazz. One step past half court you had to be on him, if not he is going to get some looks. Him getting looks gets TJ (Green) and other guys involved. Our defense was just great in the fourth quarter.”
The Aggies finished the season 20-9. They are losing 10 seniors for the second season in a row. Golden said he is pleased with what his senior accomplished this season.
“It is a good group of seniors,” Golden said. “10 guys that have put their heart and soul into this basketball program. You start with Tazz Marbury, who has played all three years and led us in scoring all year. It is unfortunate for him that he got hurt late. He wasn’t the same player that he was in midseason form. It was just the little things; he couldn’t lunge forward for balls. That groin is still bothering him. He had a great year with 17 points per game and somebody is going to get a good player when they sign him. TJ Green was our other returner that always gave us so much heart. Once again, he led the state in charges. He has bigger things to look forward too. He is going to have a great career at Clemson. I can’t list them all by name, but there are eight others that gave everything that they had into this. They were on the junior varsity team last year and only got one year of varsity experience. They made the most of it. We got some really big wins this year against some top 10 teams. I am proud of the seniors, I wish it could have ended differently tonight, but it wasn’t our night. Every single team in 5A except for one is going to be eliminated at some point during the next few weeks and tonight it was us. I am proud of our seniors. They gave me everything they had and they were a fun group to coach.”
Talladega had three players in double digits. Madden, Gooden and Hawkins finished with 12 points apiece.
For Sylacauga, Tazz Marbury led the team in scoring with 20 points.