The Bulldogs mentioned their trust in each other throughout four quarters as one of the reasons they edged Sacred Heart 56-54 to win the Calhoun County boys championship, which was their first since winning three straight from 2007-09.
“We were telling our team that we were going to have to pull together and show no mercy to anybody. That’s what we did tonight,” Anniston guard Quin Jackson said. “Throughout the week, even though I missed Tuesday’s game, I told the team that as long as we pulled together I would hit my shots, crash the boards and tonight I proved that to my team.”
Jackson finished with 15 points, including a 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs a 50-49 lead in the final minutes. That was just the beginning of the late battle.
Second-seeded Anniston and fourth-seeded Sacred Heart went back-and-forth with time winding down until Demarcus Thomas, who also finished with 15 points, gave the Bulldogs a 55-54 advantage with 27.5 seconds remaining.
After two missed free throws by Anniston on the ensuing possession, the Bulldogs united for one final defensive stop.
Sacred Heart inbounded the ball with 7.8 seconds remaining and a heavily defended potential game-winning shot from about 18 feet missed. Thomas got the rebound, was fouled and hit one of two free throws as the celebration began.
“We were just glad to get back in the thick of this thing. We haven’t won one in a while,” Anniston coach Schuessler Ware said. “It’s always good when you can win a county tournament. It’s bragging rights and the fellows really worked hard this week.
“This gives me my seventh county that I’ve won, and it’s just good, man. You’re in it, and you want to win and do the best you can.”
Sacred Heart coach Ralpheal Graves said he doesn’t believe in moral victories, but is glad the county knows his young team – which features an eighth-grader, two freshmen, a sophomore and senior starting – is for real.
“This was a stepping stone,” Graves said. “Everyone looks at us like we’re little Sacred Heart, and all of a sudden we’re playing with them. Then we start beating some of them and they know there’s another fish in the pond that’s choosing to swim.”
Anniston's Qua Frazier finished with 11 points, and Quint Dobbins added 10. Sacred Heart was led by D.J. Heath, Quen Williams and Diante Wood, each of whom scored 16 points. Heath added 11 rebounds, and Williams had eight.
With the tournament over, Anniston’s focus shifts back to making a push for Class 4A state championship. Jackson said the Bulldogs need to work more on offense, and Frazier said Anniston needs to focus on the details of its game.
“It feels good to win, but we’re moving on and looking to win the big thing,” Frazier said. “We’re really close to where we need to be. We need to just concentrate and do the little things and we’ll be complete.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.
Daniel Heard, Saks; Roc Green, Saks; Denard Spears, Piedmont; Chris English, Weaver; Gabe Marchal, Alexandria; Quint Dobbins, Anniston; Cam Horton, Jacksonville; Alton Davis, Alexandria; C.J. Swink, Alexandria; Demarcus Thomas, Anniston; Quen Williams, Sacred Heart; D.J. Heath, Sacred Heart; Diante Wood, Sacred Heart; Deon Wright, Oxford; Qua Frazier, Anniston. Most Outstanding Offensive Player: Quen Williams.
Most Outstanding Defensive Player: Demarcus Thomas. Tournament Most Valuable Player: Qua Frazier.