Since Allasha Dudley scored 36 points then four in two state-tournament games last season, Anniston coach Eddie Bullock has tried to mold a team that can win in many ways.
Count Monday’s sub-regional against Cherokee County as the latest example of progress.
On a night when Dudley spread out 11 assists but scored just nine points, post Asia Barclay put up 24 points on mostly putbacks and transition buckets to lead the Bulldogs to a 64-34 victory at home.
Anniston (25-3) advanced to the Northeast Regional and will play Fairview on Monday at 9 a.m. or noon in Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews Coliseum. Fairview (18-11) beat North Jackson 69-52 on Monday.
Barclay hit 10 of 20 shots from the field and got plenty of help from frontcourt alter ego Kiana Montgomery, who added 13 points. This came on a night in which Dudley was 3-for-17 from the field.
“I told them we were going to face games like this,” Anniston coach Eddie Bullock said. “This kind of surprised us last year. When Allasha didn’t go, we really didn’t have anybody to step up as far as doing it.
“Tonight, we had a few other people step up and do what we needed them to do.”
It’s not the only example to come in a big game this season. Guard Airrianna Colley’s big shooting night in the Calhoun County final got Anniston through when Sacred Heart limited Dudley to seven points with a box-and-one defense.
Barclay and Montgomery are the constants, two athletic post players who can finish around the basket, hit free throws, defend and run the floor.
“We try to come together as a team just to make it all the way,” Barclay said. “It’s very important to us. If we see they’re not making their shots, we try to intervene and help them out.”
It’s all part of making sure Anniston has a remedy, in case an opponent does something similar to what Rogers did to Anniston in winning last year’s state final. Count Cherokee County coach Leah Nelson among the convinced.
“Their physicality, there’s nobody like them around,” she said. “We’ve played some really good teams this year on purpose. I scheduled a tough schedule for us to prepare us for postseason.
“I was hoping to meet them a little bit later in the season. Regardless, to get to the state tournament, you’ve got to go through Anniston right now. They get after it, and they’re tough to defend.”
A 49-46 loss to Hokes Bluff in the Area 10 final assured the Warriors they would face Anniston in the sub-regional and not the Northeast Regional.
As if battling Barclay and Montgomery wasn’t hard, Cherokee County had to fight through another constant in the Bulldogs’ game … defense. Jordyn Starr and Sidney Johnson led the Warriors with eight points apiece.
Cherokee County finished 17-14 in a season highlighted by the Warriors’ championship in the eight-team Anniston Star-Cleburne News tourney at Christmas.
“I’m very pleased with our season,” Nelson said. “I think about eight of our losses came from top 10 teams.
“We came to a crossroads where we could’ve gone either way. We could’ve had a losing season or a winning season. We had a stretch of four games in five days and went 3-for-4 on that stretch, and that was a turning point for us.”