D200214 heritage boys vs belgreen

Decatur Heritage's Brayden Kyle drives to basket as Belgreen's Isac Willingham defends during the Northwest Regional Tournament semifinals at Wallace State Community College on Thursday. [JERONIMO NISA/DECATUR DAILY]

HANCEVILLE — It seemed a perfect turning point.

Covenant Christian tied Pickens County with 14 seconds left in regulation Thursday night in the most Covenant Christian way possible, a Titus Griffin 3 from the left wing.

But sometimes endings aren’t so tidy, and sometimes an extra opportunity becomes a missed one.

Covenant Christian lost 74-68 in overtime to Pickens County in the Class 1A Northwest Regional semifinals, the Eagles’ first loss all season to a Class 1A school.

“I thought we battled really well the whole game,” Covenant Christian coach Bret Waldrep said. “We had a lot not go our way in the first half, and I thought the guys did a great job of battling back after a really tough half.”

Down as much as 13 early in the second half, Covenant Christian (25-3) rallied behind seniors Griffin and Jacob Livingston (19 points each), leading to Griffin’s game-tying 3 in the final seconds of regulation.

Griffin made a layup to open overtime, and then Zeke Griffin hit Jacob Livingston for a score and 63-59 lead with 2:48 left in overtime. But Pickens County outscored Covenant 15-5 the rest of the way.

Ahead 63-61, Covenant was called for a 10-second backcourt violation. Shocked, Waldrep swung his arm in frustration and received a technical foul.

Two free throws and a Jawan Petty basket followed immediately, and after Covenant missed a free throw, Javion Belle made a 3-point play for a 68-63 Pickens County lead.

“You can’t get a technical there, and I did,” Waldrep said, addressing it before he was even asked about it. “Whether you feel like you deserve it or not, it doesn’t matter. Can’t get it. So it hurt us. It was a swing. I mean, we still could have won the game, but it was obviously a swing, and I hate it for them. I take full responsibility for it. It’s ridiculous on my part.”

Pickens County (23-3) advanced to play reigning state champion Decatur Heritage in the region final.

“Our whole season we’ve been talking about Covenant Christian, Covenant Christian, Covenant Christian,” Pickens County coach Marcuss Barnes said. “That’s who put us out last year. We just were hungry to get here, and now we’re hungry to win it.”

Petty and Jah-Marien Latham — an Alabama football commit — each scored 20 points, and Belle added 15.

Zeke Griffin had 12 points and Haston Alexander 11 for the Eagles, giving them four players in double figures. Alex Glover scored five points and Wyatt Vess two. Vess and the Griffins never came out of the game.

It closed the high school careers for Titus Griffin, Livingston and reserves Davis McNatt and Jack Richardson.

“You can’t ask for better kids to help you build a program. You just can’t do it,” Waldrep said. “I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else. It’s as good as it gets.”

Titus Griffin in particular has helped define this Covenant Christian team for several years as its top scorer and most dangerous shooting threat. The Eagles advanced to the regional finals last year.

“It’s been everything, man,” Griffin said, when asked what it’s meant to wear the Covenant Christian uniform. “I can’t imagine not wearing it next year, but it’s been fun.”

--

Decatur Heritage 68, Belgreen 65

Belgreen coach Marty Cooper saw a lot of improvement in his team from the start of the year to the end.

The Bulldogs were good enough Thursday to challenge the reigning 1A state champion the entire game, but not quite good enough to win as Decatur Heritage prevailed, 68-65.

Will Bonner and Collin Bonner, sophomore brothers who transferred from Russellville, scored 23 points apiece for Belgreen (27-7).

But GianCarlo Valdez scored 23 points and had seven assists and five rebounds for Decatur Heritage (22-8).

“That boy’s a beast, for real,” Collin Bonner said.

Jordan Burks added 17 points and seven rebounds for Decatur Heritage.

Belgreen never led after the first quarter, but the Bulldogs made Decatur Heritage earn a win. Belgreen rallied from a 65-55 deficit in the final minutes but couldn’t closer than two points. Bryant Hubbard scored eight, Scout Bragwell five, Isac Willingham four and David Plott two.

Cooper noted wins the Bulldogs earned this year over teams like Lindsay Lane, Deshler, Winfield and Mars Hill.

“What we want to do is take where we’re at now and get even better,” Cooper said. “If we do that, despite our lack of size, I still think we can get to Birmingham if we put our mind to it.”

Contact Craig at Craig.Thomas@TimesDaily.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TD_CraigThomas

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