At the start of the fourth quarter, Sylacauga, trailing 46-35, made things interesting with a 9-0 run. Hayden Ellis scored a basket underneath the goal and then came up with a steal and ensuing layup. Desmond Green received the inbound, but put the ball in the Sylacauga basket. Kwame Kirby knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the Talladega lead to 46-44.
At that point, Miller called a timeout with 7:05 remaining in the game and the Talladega defense clamped down thereafter. Rodney Gilbert hit two free throws and a long-range 2-point basket, before Talladega finished the game on an 8-0 run for the win.
“Every team is going to make a run at you,” Miller said. “I believe they made a 8-0 or 9-0 spurt, but we settled down and got the lead back up there. We just had to do our things that we do good. It was just a good team defensive effort. I like holding a team under 50 points, so all hats go to the defense tonight.”
Sylacauga got out to an early lead in the previous meeting between the two teams, before Talladega controlled the fourth quarter for a 66-61 win.
In the first half of this game, Sylacauga once again got out to an early lead. But in this game, the team was more methodical on offense. They moved the ball around until Jonathan Crawford drove inside the land for a basket to give them a 6-2 lead.
Talladega responded more quickly in this game. Green came up with a steal and an ensuing dunk, which received a roar from the home crowd. It also gave Talladega their first lead of the game, 9-8.
“I thought it was a great crowd and we had great fan support,” Miller said. “It shows what good basketball we have in this county.”
Green’s play also shifted the momentum to Talladega. Sylacauga turned the ball over on their next offensive possession without an attempt at a basket. Ahmad Gooden used the glass for a 2-point basket and Green had a putback to give Talladega a 13-8 lead. Gooden had a rebound and a putback at the end of the first quarter to give Talladega an 18-12 lead.
“They hit so many shots, we decided to man up on them,” Miller said. “I believe we took them out of their rhythm on some of their shots. They hit some, they banked some in, they got a 4-point play; they’re such a good shooting team, you just cannot give them good looks.”
Sylacauga was able to cut Talladega’s lead down to 20-17 following a 3-pointer by Daveon Nix.
Talladega used a 7-0 run to push their lead to double digits. D’Angelo Scales capped the run with a pull-up jumper giving Talladega a 27-17 lead. Gilbert converted a 4-point play, hitting a 3-pointer and an ensuing free throw and Antwane Cook hit two free throws during a 6-2 run to cut Talladega’s lead to 29-23 at halftime.
Talladega opened the second half on a commanding 9-0 run. Gooden missed a basket inside, but followed the play by grabbing his own rebound and getting a putback basket to start the run. Green hit one of two free throws to cap the run and push Talladega’s lead to 38-23.
Talladega continued to dominate for the remainder of the third quarter, carrying a 46-35 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We just didn’t execute,” Sylacauga head coach Will Copeland said. “We didn’t make shots. We couldn’t stop them. We just weren’t focused tonight. I’ll take the blame for it. We just weren’t ready to play.”
Gooden led Talladega in scoring with 14 points, while Scales was also in double digits with 10 points. Green and Richard Williams each finished with nine points.
Gilbert led all scorers with 16 points, while Hayden Ellis finished in double figures with 10 points for Sylacauga.
With the win, Talladega improved to 17-2 overall and 4-1 in area play. Meanwhile, Sylacauga fell to 10-8 overall and 1-3 in area play.