HANCEVILLE — A double-digit lead early in the second half for Muscle Shoals quickly evaporated as Bessemer City battled back to beat the Trojans in a 6A Northwest semifinal game, 66-59.
Muscle Shoals (22-8) ended the first half leading 33-24. The Trojans’ offense was rolling, with Mikey McIntosh getting to the basket as well as open shots from the perimeter. McIntosh had 18 points at halftime.
The Trojans extended that lead to 14 early in the third quarter, only to see it get wiped away by turnovers, Bessemer City’s big men in 6-foot-7 Ezekiel Spann and 6-foot-3 Jaquan Rollins and a Tigers team that played with more energy down the stretch.
“Disappointed,” Muscle Shoals head coach Neal Barker said. “We thought that was a game we could’ve won. They killed us on the glass in the third quarter. Wasn’t a lack of effort on our part, (they just had) big, strong guys. Give them credit.”
Muscle Shoals fell behind by as much as 10 in the final five minutes of the game. Ty Smith, who finished with 20, hit a couple big shots down the stretch, but it wasn’t enough to mount a comeback.
McIntosh, who seemed as if he was on his way to another big performance, only scored four points in the second half. The Tigers took him out of the game.
“We couldn’t stop him off the dribble (in the first half),” Bessemer City head coach Langston Williams said. “(Second half), we stayed in the lane a little more so he couldn’t attack the basket.”
McIntosh noticed it, too. He said the Tigers switched to a zone defense which forced the Trojans to shoot shots deep from the perimeter. Once those shots weren’t falling — Muscle Shoals was 5 for 21 from 3 — the Tigers seized control of the game.
Spann finished with seven points and eight rebounds, while Rollins had 10 and five. Thaddeus Williams had a big game as well, finishing with 23 points.
“They made some shots,” Barker said. “I don’t think either team made any (big) adjustments as far as X’s and O’s. Their size and physicality hurt us in the second half as well.”
Muscle Shoals’ forward Nick Griffith went out with an ankle injury in the third quarter, further contributing to the Trojans’ problems in the paint.
“Those kind of things happen though,” Barker said. “You’ve got to be good, but you’ve got to be a little lucky too.
While it wasn’t the way the Trojans wanted their season to end, Barker, McIntosh and Smith all were proud of what their team accomplished this season.
The goal was to get back to Birmingham, but even in a loss, the Trojans were still able to process the season as a whole.
“I’m proud of how far we made it, it was not a lack of effort,” McIntosh said. “You can be happy even in losses like that. As long as everybody is running with you, that’s all that matters.”