“We came out with a lot of intensity,” Talladega head coach Chucky Miller said. “Ben Russell is such a good team. They’re quick, they’re athletic, and they match up with us everywhere. We played real good. We were in bad foul trouble in the first half, but we still played good with fouls. I thought Ahmad Gooden had a good game. He dominated the paint in there offensively and with rebounds. Everybody played good. We played real intensely; we’re a pretty good team when we play with that intensity.”
The two teams came out for what amounted to a very entertaining, fast-paced first quarter.
Josh Madden scored the first basket of the game on a transition layup off a steal by D’Angelo Scales.
Justavian Norris scored underneath on a crisp bounce pass by Ronnie Stacy to tie the game, 2-2.
Madden had a steal and passed the ball to Desmond Green, who made a pinpoint pass back to Madden for an easy basket underneath to give Talladega am 8-4 lead.
Dra Graham had a rebound and put back to cut the Talladega lead to 8-6.
Later, Stacy had a rebound and put back to cut Talladega’s lead to 11-8.
Gooden responded for Talladega with a rebound, put back, and hit an ensuing free throw to give Talladega a 14-8 lead.
Stacy shot a midrange jumper, the ball hitting nothing but the inside net of the hoop to make it 14-10.
Madden hit a 3-pointer to give Talladega a 17-10 lead.
Stacy responded with another crisp bounce pass to help set Graham up for an easy transition layup to make it 17-12.
Madden close out the first quarter with a layup to give Talladega a 19-12 lead.
Talladega created some distance by opening the second quarter on an 11-3 run. Deangelo Pointer started the run with a steal and ensuing layup and Scales intercepted a Stacy pass and finished the play with a layup to give Talladega a 30-15 lead.
Talladega closed out the second quarter with another run, this one a 12-4 run. Marius Echols made a smooth pass to set Gooden up inside for an easy basket to start the run. Gooden scored the final basket of the first half with another two points in the post. At halftime, Talladega held a commanding 46-25 lead.
Several key Talladega players got into early foul trouble. However, the Tigers worked to get other players involved with great efficiency. Additionally, Ben Russell started out shooting 5-for-12 from the free throw line.
Madden buried a 3-pointer to begin the third quarter.
Stacy responded with a rebound and put back, but Talladega reeled off a 6-2 run. Green got the run going with a lay-in assisted by Scales. Gooden continued to be a solid presence in the post, grabbing a rebound and put back and capping the run with a turnaround jumper to push Talladega’s lead to 55-29. At that point, Ben Russell head coach Jeff Hines pulled his starters.
“We missed too many easy shots early on,” Hines said after the game. “We just didn’t defend anybody. Of course, you have to credit Talladega. They played extremely well and they played extremely hard. Our guys didn’t. To me, that was the difference in the ball game.”
Gooden not only managed to finish as the game’s high scorer, but he also notched a double-double. Gooden tallied 26 points and 17 rebounds. Madden was also in double figures with 18 points. Scales contributed nine points.
For Ben Russell, Graham was the leading scorer with 12 points, while Stacy finished with 10 points.
With the win, Talladega improved to 24-2 overall. They play at Pell City tonight with tipoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.