“We survived all the 3s; I can’t believe a team hit eight 3s on us in the first half,” Talladega head coach Chucky Miller said. “But we got it back tied up. Then, we were just going to turn up the defensive pressure a little bit more in the third quarter. I thought our half court press got them out of their rhythm, their shooters’ rhythm. We wanted to just try to get some easy baskets, but we were missing so many. I said ‘Well, there is always going to be a rebound opportunity.’ Hats off to our team. That was a great second half.”
Talladega scored the first points of the game on a rebound and put back by Marius Echols to give Talladega a 2-0 lead.
Sylacauga got on the scoreboard with a driving layup by Jaylon McGhee to tie it 2-2.
Ahmad Gooden answered for Talladega with a long-range 2-point jumper to give Talladega a 4-2 lead.
Sylacauga began a shooting barrage, knocking down six 3-point shots in the first quarter.
Kadeem Jackson hit the first 3-pointer of the game that gave Sylacauga a 5-4 lead.
Later, McGhee knocked down a 3-pointer to give Sylacauga a 9-8 lead.
Josh Madden answered with a 3-point play, hitting an off-the-glass shot and converting an ensuing free throw to give Talladega an 11-9 lead.
Sylacauga ended the first quarter on a 12-5 run. McGhee started the run with a 3-pointer, Rodney Gilbert hit a 3-pointer, Antwone Cook hit a 3-pointer, and Gilbert capped the drive with a 3-pointer to give Sylacauga a 21-16 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Madden hit a long-range 2-point jumper to start the second quarter and start an 8-3 Talladega run. Gooden made a baby hook in the post, followed by a jumper at the top of the key. Kendarius Smith capped the run with a rebound and put back to tie the game, 24-24. The two teams played to a 35-35 draw at halftime.
Talladega dominated defensively in the third quarter, which proved to be the difference in the game. The Tigers held the Aggies to just four points during the quarter.
Desmond Green hit two free throws to give Talladega a 37-35 lead. From there, Talladega had a 11-2 run. Gooden converted a 3-point play to start the run and Madden had a rebound and put back to cap the run and give Talladega a 48-37 lead.
Jonathan Crawford had a tip-in basket to make it 48-39 at the end of the third quarter.
Madden scored the first points of the fourth quarter for Talladega with another rebound and put back to give the Tigers a 50-41 lead.
“First of all, you’ve got to give credit to Talladega,” Sylacauga head coach Will Copeland said. “They do a good job of just pounding the boards. At the start of the second half, we just let some slip through our hands. We had that first possession and they were going toward the wrong end and we couldn’t capitalize on it. I just thought they were aggressive on the boards and we stood and watched.”
Later, Marius Echols hit a basket while driving near the baseline to give Talladega a 54-43 lead and they maintained a double-digit lead for the remainder of the game.
Madden led all scorers with 24 points. Gooden tallied yet another double-double by scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Green and Echols each finished the game with 11 points.
For Sylacauga, Cook led the team in scoring with 12 points, while McGhee was also in double figures with 11 points.
With the loss, Sylacauga closed out their season with a 15-12 overall record.
“The seniors, I’m proud of them,” Copeland said. “They stuck with it and kept good attitudes. I hope they are going to work now toward becoming good young men and becoming productive to society and graduate high school. Basketball is just a small, small portion of their lives. I hope it was a positive one.”
Talladega will host Shelby Co. Monday for the area championship game with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m. Shelby Co. is the only team this season that has defeated Talladega at home. They defeated Chilton Co. in the first game of the night, 69-53.