“When you play county rivals, in this county, a lot of the kids have been playing each other through the programs in the rec leagues,” Talladega head coach Chucky Miller said. “They know each other. It’s just good to see who gets better each year and grows, who works on their game to get better each year.”
While it’s still early in the season, Talladega has gotten off to a fast start to their season, having already won the Shelby Co. Tournament and holding a perfect 5-0 record.
“They’re buying into our system,” Miller said of his team. “We’re playing pretty good defense right now. We’re trying to get better on offense. I believe that’s come along as they get more experience. We’re trying just to use our quickness and play real good defense.”
Talladega defeated Childersburg last season in the championship game of the Talladega County Tournament to give their first county championship since 2009. Ahmad Gooden led all scorers with 18 points. Gooden was shaken up in Talladega’s 59-36 win against Pell City, but Miller believes Gooden will tough it out.
“Ahmad got banged up,” Miller conceded. “I believe he shook off his little injury. We’ve got a couple people dinged up, but it’s a long season. They’ll play through it. Ahmad will be close to 100 percent.”
Meanwhile, Childersburg (2-3) has had a more modest start to their season, but Miller isn’t overlooking the cross-county Tigers.
“Childersburg—I’ve seen them play,” Miller said. “The game I saw them play, they did really well against Vincent. It looked like they’ve got some good jumpers as usual and some good shooters. I know they lost a couple of their good players, but for some reason Childersburg has always got good players.”
Jatorre “Cookie Monster” Cook is the leading scorer for Childersburg this season. Through five games, he has averaged 16.6 points per game.
Childersburg opened the season with a last-second 54-52 loss to Sylacauga, before winning 49-35 against Vincent at home. They also participated in the IPS Invitational Tournament hosted by Sylacauga and came away with a second loss to the Aggies and a win against B.B. Comer. They lost Thursday on the road at Ben Russell, 85-65.
“We’re not a real good 3-point shooting team, so we decided we’ve got to be a little more patient on offense and get a better look,” Barnett said following the team’s win against Comer last week. “We still aren’t there yet; we’re a work in progress trying to get there. Even though we’re not a very tall team, we’ve rebounded the ball really good.”
Miller believes playing a quality county opponent like Childersburg can only help his team improve.
“It’s so early in the year; you just need to get games in to get all of your guys experience,” he said. “I feel Childersburg feels the same way. We’ve played five games; I don’t how many they’ve played, but getting games in, getting kids more comfortable—it’s still the first week of December—you’ve got to play to get better. Teams like Childersburg will get you better.”