TUSCUMBIA — Winning the regular season area championship is nice, but Colbert Heights coach Brad James knew it wouldn’t mean anything if the Wildcats lost to No. 4 seed Cherokee in the area tournament semifinals.
So he used some visual motivational tactics to show his team they couldn’t take a victory for granted.
“Anytime you get in the area tournament, there is the possibility for a big upset,” James said. “There was a big upset in the girls tournament (Thursday) night (Shoals Christian beating No. 3-ranked Covenant Christian) so I ran copies off of that article and posted it in the locker room.”
The visual aid worked, as Colbert Heights defeated Cherokee 60-44 to keep its season alive and advance to the Class 2A, Area 16 tournament championship Monday night against Red Bay.
“He was telling us not to take Cherokee lightly,” Colbert Heights forward Jeffrey Mitchell said. “We couldn’t afford to do that.”
But it wasn’t easy. Cherokee hung with Colbert Heights for most of the first half, even taking a 14-11 lead midway through the second quarter. But the Wildcats closed the half on a 13-3 run to lead 24-17 at the break and continued to pull away in the second half.
“We came out too excited in the first half,” James said. “It took us about a half for us to settle down and do what we’re capable of.”
The catylists for the Wildcats were post players Mitchell and Kaleb Suggs. Both finished the game with a double-double, with Suggs having 17 points and 11 rebounds and Mitchell posting 13 points and 13 boards.
But while Suggs used his 6-foot-7 height to snatch rebounds over smaller defenders, Mitchell worked hard to grab boards over players roughly his same size.
“Jeffrey Mitchell busted his tail tonight,” James said. “He’s just a hustle guy. He does all the dirty work that doesn’t get in the box score.”
Darian Fountain led Cherokee with 17 points while Jacolby Benjamin scored 10.
Red Bay 49, Phil Campbell 46: The theme to tournament basketball is survive and advance, and that’s exactly what Red Bay did — survive.
The Tigers barely held off a fourth-quarter rally by Phil Campbell to adavance to the championship game.
“That fourth quarter was crazy,” Red Bay coach Greg Cash said. “(Phil Campbell) really shot the ball well in the fourth quarter. I was always scared of the way they shoot the 3-pointer and the fourth quarter got really interesting.”
Red Bay began the final quarter ahead 35-25, but Phil Campbell turned up the defense and got hot from the outside to close the gap.
Trailing 42-37 with 2:30 left, the Bobcats’ Jamie Dorroh scored, then stole the ball and passed to Craig Saint for a layup to cut the lead to one point with 2:15 remaining.
Red Bay recovered and went back up by five points at 46-41, but Skeeter Benford nailed a 3-pointer with 1:02 left to cut it to two once again.
Red Bay only hit 3-of-5 free throws in the final minute to give Phil Campbell a chance to tie, but Saint missed a 3-pointer with two seconds left that finally allowed the Tigers to breathe easy.
Barry Reach led Red Bay with 15 points while Levi Humphres scored 12. Dorrah and Benford led Phil Campbell with 11 and nine points respectively.