It really was just a matter of basic basketball.
On offense, Alexandria shot layups, while Anniston settled for far too many jumpers. On defense, the Valley Cubs boxed out and limited the typically aggressive Bulldogs' second-chance opportunities in a 47-39 win on Wednesday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the annual Calhoun County basketball tournament.
The No. 8-seeded Valley Cubs led by as many as 11 and as few as one but never trailed in knocking off the 2009 Class 4A state-runner up Bulldogs, who had a bye into the second round as the No. 1 seed.
Senior Monica Williams led the way for the Valley Cubs, scoring a team-high 16 points, including a 3-pointer and 5-for-6 shooting from the free throw line. Equally as important in the win for Alexandria was the play of the power forward-center tandem of senior Taylor Warren and sophomore Devonna Taylor.
The 5-foot-11 Warren was second in scoring for Alexandria with a hard-earned 10 points. All eight of Warren's points were scored inside the paint.
Darice Bowie was tops in scoring for Anniston with 16 points.
Alexandria advances to the semifinals where the Valley Cubs face the winner of today's 4 p.m. quarterfinal matchup between No. 4 Wellborn and No. 12 White Plains.
Anniston travels to J.O. Johnson on Monday.
"The main thing we emphasized was to not let them get offensive rebounds, to box on defense," Alexandria coach Phillips Hartsfield. "They've beat us in the past like that. On offense, we just emphasized trying to protect the ball."
Alexandria (7-10) did an even better job of protecting a 15-4 lead early in the first quarter.
It seemed as if Alexandria would crack under Anniston's pressure-packed defense. The Bulldogs cut the lead to a point at 17-16 on a jumper from sophomore Tiakeefah Huguley at the 7:10 mark of the second quarter.
"We just didn't have that magic and that energy that we usually play with," Anniston coach Eddie Bullock said. "We shot jump shots, and they got layups around the basket. The advantage is going to the team that shoots the higher percentage shot."
It was as close as Anniston (12-10) would get to the lead and what would've been a school-record fourth-straight Calhoun County tournament title.
Hartsfield called a timeout to stop the bleeding following Huguley's bucket, which capped a 6-0 Bulldogs' run.
"I told them just to slow them (Anniston) down," Hartsfield said. "I knew Anniston would get after it and try to make a run. I just told them to focus, to not turn the ball over and focus on what we're trying to do. And we did a good job of that."
"It wasn't about anything we didn't do," Bullock said. "It was about what they did do. They beat us from start to finish."
Hartsfield's team went on a 7-0 run that begin with a 3-pointer from Williams with 6:26 to play. She added a layup, while Taylor scored from inside as the Valley Cubs took a 26-18 halftime lead.
That run set a precedent for the rest of the game.
Each time Anniston would make a run, Alexandria would respond, doing just enough to stay on top. It happened after a timeout with 2:44 to play in the third when Anniston trailed by five. Warren added a much needed bucket to extend the lead. It happened again after Anniston's Patrice Pickens scored two of her 10 points to bring the Bulldogs within three at 40-37 with 4:09 to play in the game. Williams scored and Kelsey Taylor got to the line and added a free throw to put Alexandria up six with 3:30 to play.
"I was just thinking 'Oh My God, we're beating Anniston,'" Warren said. "Please, please, don't turn the ball over. We've lost a lot of games, way more than we should have. Nobody had confidence in us but we this game definitely is a confidence booster."
"We didn't come here just to win this game," she added. "We came here to win a Calhoun County championship."
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 235-3575.