With the win, Sylacauga advances to play TC Central in the boys semifinals Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Sylacauga.
“We talked before the game that we are such a team that relies on the 3-point shot,” Sylacauga head coach Will Copeland said. “We figured out that teams are going to guard us, and we’ve got to have guys that are either going to get a rebound or we’re going to get something out of our press or we’re going to knock down free throws or we’re going to get some scoring inside. That’s what we did because we only hit four free 3s. It was one of our bad games, but Comer came ready to play. They had a good game plan. They pressed us, and we freaked out and we started the game on it. There at the end, I think our press wore on them a little bit. We got some steals and some shots. Our guys off the bench came in and helped. It’s a win; it wasn’t pretty.”
Comer jumped out to a 6-0 lead. Darius Hale scored the first points of the game with an aggressive layup. Malik Burns capped the run with a high-arc floater.
Sylacauga responded with a 10-2 run. Eddie Walker hit a shot in the post by utilizing the backboard, while Daveon Nix capped the run with a 3-pointer to give Sylacauga a 12-10 lead.
Hayden Ellis managed to get a rebound and putback to give Sylacauga an 18-16 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Sylacauga started the second quarter on another run, this one a 9-2 run. Jonathan Crawford opened the run with an easy basket while cutting to the inside. Kadeem Jackson capped the run with a transition layup assisted by a Jonathan Crawford steal.
Comer responded with a 7-0 run. Malik Burns made a basket in the post and Dee Embry capped the run with his third 3-pointer of the game to cut the Sylacauga lead to 27-25.
Embry hit another 3-pointer and Terrell McCain added one to close out the half with Sylacauga still maintaining a 34-31 lead.
“Dee Embry played a great game,” Comer head coach Carson Grier said. “He was at the hospital right before the game. His grandmother’s at the hospital, so he had to come running in the door to get dressed. All our players played really hard. Dee is so quick; he makes a lot of plays. He overplayed a couple of things and got some early fouls. That hurt us, but he makes it up because he is so quick. The reason I don’t start him is because he gives us a second fire. He gives us energy coming off the bench.”
In the second half, Sylacauga strategically went inside, while Comer struggled shooting the ball.
Jeff Burns had a rebound and putback and Nix was able to draw contact, hitting one of two free throws to end the third quarter with Sylacauga pushing their lead to 53-45.
“I told them at halftime ‘If you’re going to take it to the rim, you’ve got to get the foul or you’ve got to get the shot or you’ve got to get both,’” Copeland said. “We tell them to try to get some contact, especially at the rim because that’s where it’s going to be defended the best.”
Sylacauga opened the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run. All of their baskets on the run were either free throws or second-chance opportunities. Jackson opened things up with a rebound and putback, while Jaylon McGhee capped the run with a rebound and putback to give Sylacauga a commanding 63-45 lead.
“In the second half, we didn’t shoot the ball well and we got frustrated because we’ve been shooting the ball well in most games we’ve played lately,” Grier said. “In the second half, we came out and we went cold. I said ‘We’re not shooting, so go to the hole.’ We couldn’t get anything to go around the basket either. We couldn’t get anything to go any way we went in the second half.”
Burns led all scorers with 16 points for Comer in the losing effort, while Embry finished with 14 points. Darius Hale contributed nine points.
For Sylacauga, Rodney Gilbert led the team in scoring with 15 points, while Nix finished with 13 points. Jackson contributed nine points.