“Anniston came out early,” Sylacauga head coach Derrick Crawford said. “Like I told you yesterday (Monday), I thought it was going to be a defensive battle. Shakayla went out with an injury there for a little while and I thought my kids rallied after she got the injury and played well. It was a great ball game and it was a great atmosphere. Talking to the officials on the floor, the lead official said it was like a playoff game and it is getting them ready. Two games in a row that I think are going to help both of us. We just have to continue to build off this, take care of our bodies, get healthy and get ready for Shelby County.”
Thomas went down in the third quarter as she banged legs with Nene Bolton on a fast break with five minutes left in the third quarter. The Lady Aggies (14-3) led 30-24 at the time that she was helped off the court. Ebony Mitchell knocked down both free throws for Sylacauga to make it 32-26.
Tierra Dark and Kiara Pope stepped up in the reigning Class 5A Player of the Year’s absence. Tierra Dark found Tainiya Garrett with a no look pass for a layup to make it 34-28 with 4:02 left in the third. Kiara Pope hit a runner to increase the Lady Aggies lead to 36-30. Bolton scored eight points in the third quarter including a layup to cut the lead down to 36-32. Tierra Dark hit a free throw to give the Lady Aggies a 37-32 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Thomas checked back into the game to start the fourth quarter. The Lady Bulldogs opened the final quarter on a 7-2 run to tie the game at 39-39 with 3:22 left in the game. Davia Palmer hit a jumper to cut the lead down 39-34. Bolton scored three straight points including a putback to cut the lead down to 39-37 with 4:15 left in the game.
Marticla Jackson tied the game on a layup off the assists of Bolton to tie the game at 39-39.
Thomas took over the game and showed why she is a McDonalds All-American finalist. Thomas hit a long jumper to put Sylacauga ahead 41-39 with 2:50 left in the game. After Anniston missed a free throw, Thomas grabbed the board, the Florida State signee pushed the ball up the court and took a bump and drained a jumper to increase the Lady Aggies lead to 43-39 with 2:33 left in the game.
Kiyana Bullock split a pair of free throws to cut the Sylacauga lead to 43-40 with 2:25 left. Thomas drained a jumper at the top of the key to put Sylacauga ahead 45-40.
Sylacauga’s defense stiffened in the final minute as they forced the Lady Bulldogs to turn the ball over and take contested shots. Bullock hit a layup to cut the lead down to 45-42 with 32.2 seconds left in the game.
Thomas found Kayla Dark for a layup to make it 47-42 with 24 seconds left in the game. Thomas blocked Bolton’s shot at the end of the game to seal the victory.
“It was Shakayla being Shakayla,”Crawford said. “I challenged her womanhood a little bit about doing the right things. I thought from that point on she stepped her game up. With me challenging her I thought her teammates responded and we played well. I thought we played well defensively in the fourth quarter. I don’t know what Nene had in the fourth quarter, but I think we guarded her well. We did a good job on a High School All-American in the fourth quarter. Shakayla guarded her the whole fourth quarter when she was in there. Shakayla did an outstanding job along with her teammates. I am excited and we will go back to work tomorrow, we will keep grinding and get ready for County (Tournament).”
Anniston head coach Eddie Bullock doesn’t like to lose, but he can live with it as long as they played hard like they did in both of their meetings against Sylacauga.
“We played hard, we just got outplayed,” Anniston head coach Eddie Bullock said. “Sylacauga has a good team, they did some things right. We made a few mistakes at the end and they took advantage of it.”
Both Bolton and Thomas showed why they are two of the best players in the nation in a game that had a playoff atmosphere.
Bolton scored nine of her 20 points in the first quarter. The 6-foot-2 McDonald’s All-American finalist opened the game with a putback. Bolton went to work down low on her friend Thomas and scored a layup to make it 8-0. She also hit a pair of layups late to give Anniston a 12-6 lead.
Tierra Dark scored four points in the first quarter including a jumper to cut Anniston lead to 12-8 going into the second quarter.
Thomas only scored two points in the first quarter, but she made sure her impact on the game was felt in the second quarter. Thomas got going by hitting three free throws. She led the Lady Aggies on a 15-4 run. Thomas then hit a layup to cut the Anniston lead to 16-13. She once again got to the charity stripe and nailed three out of four to cut the lead 18-16. Briasia Richardson tied the game with layup at 20-20 with 1:56 left in the half. Thomas gave the Lady Aggies the lead on a layup off a pass from Tierra Dark to make it 22-20 with 1:30 left. She ended the half with back-to-back layup to give Sylacauga a 26-20 lead going into halftime. She scored 14 of her game-high 24 points in the quarter.
Sylacauga takes on Shelby County on Friday, and then they will take on archrival Childersburg on Saturday night.