Talladega stifled Shelby County in the first half and it proved fortuitous when thing got a little close in the fourth quarter.
Marius Echols came up with a huge steal and assist to D’Angelo Scales in transition for a basket to give Talladega a 63-54 lead and help shift the momentum of the game with just 2:16 remaining in the game.
Prior to Echols’ steal, Shelby mounted a 15-6 run and had just come up with another steal and chance for a scoring opportunity.
Emmanuel Hall started the run with a mid-range jumper and then Brandon Green came up with a steal and after missing a pull-up jumper, grabbed his own rebound and had a put back to cut the Talladega lead to 55-43.
Green capped the run with a basket while cutting toward the baseline to cut Talladega’s lead to 61-54 with 2:40 remaining in the game. Quinterius Montgomery came up with a steal for Shelby County before the Wildcats made a dangerous pass that Echols pounced on and the Tigers capitalized on the turnover. They finished the game on a 6-2 run, including an exclamation point dunk by Echols at the buzzer.
“They’re such a good shooting team; we had to take a chance because we were in foul trouble,” Talladega head coach Chucky Miller said. “We were trying to just get out and waste some time. They hit some shots; we knew they were going to get a run at us. We just had to respond.”
Shelby County scored 23 points in the fourth quarter, but Talladega held the Wildcats to 33 points throughout the first three quarters of the game.
The first quarter set the tone for the entirety of the game. Talladega used defense to not only hold Shelby County to just seven points but also created points through turnovers. Desmond Green scored two transition layups and Josh Madden scored the final points of the quarter on a transition layup to give Talladega a 15-7 lead.
“I thought our man-to-man defense was real good in the first half,” Miller said. “It kind of shut down what they wanted to do. Until the end of the game, we shut down their shooters. I know they hit some 3s in the first half, but the other ones in the fourth quarter they had to let them fly to try to get in the game. But I felt we were in control for most of the game.”
Talladega continued to play strong defense in the second quarter and outscored Shelby County 20-10 in the quarter to gain a commanding 35-17 halftime lead.
Talladega finished the quarter on a 9-2 run. Echols started the run with a rebound and put back. Deangelo Pointer knocked down a pull-up jumper to give Talladega their biggest lead of the first half, 34-15. Madden capped the run by hitting one of two free throws.
Madden led all scorers with 16 points. In all, Talladega had five players finish with double figures in scoring. Green had 15 points, Echols had 12 points, and Gooden and Scales each scored 10 points.
“That’s Talladega basketball right there,” Miller said. “When everybody can do it, the other team cannot look at one person and shut him down because if they try that we’ve got plenty of weapons. We’re a balanced team; probably one of the few teams in the state that averages five in double figures.”
Justus Martin led Shelby County with 14 points.
Gooden was named MVP of the area tournament and teammates Madden, Green, and Scales were also named to the team. Shelby County’s Martin, Hall, and Green rounded out the All-Area selections.
With the win, Talladega will host Booker T. Washington Friday with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m.