Visiting Cherokee County survived the organized chaos that is Anniston’s defense for one quarter.
The rest of the night the Bulldogs’ pressure and the resulting transition game were too much for the Warriors to withstand, and Anniston emerged with a 62-24 victory in boys sub-regional play Tuesday.
The Bulldogs, now 23-7, will play Oneonta (20-8) in the opening round of the Northeast Regional at Jacksonville State on Feb. 19. Oneonta defeated Randolph School of Huntsville 60-33 in its sub-regional game. After an 8-7 start, the Redskins have won 12 of their last 13 games.
“We knew they were a really good shooting team and they posed a real problem for us because they had five guys out there who could shoot. We had to take our big guy (Theron Montgomery) and put him on the perimeter and he had to move his feet tonight and he did,” Anniston head coach Torry Brown said. “It was a total team effort. Defensively, we were really active. We had active hands. We were moving our feet. We anticipated really well. It was just a good defensive effort outside that first quarter.”
Cherokee County took a 7-2 lead in the first two minutes on 2-point baskets by Chance Latty and Slade Alexander and a 3-pointer by Ivory Moore. Anniston answered with baskets from Kwame Milton and Montgomery then took a brief 8-7 lead when Ladreka Hall turned an offensive rebound into a put-back. Stephen Smith got a put-back for the Warriors and Moore’s second trey earned Cherokee County a 12-8 lead when the first period ended.
“They did a really good job the first quarter,” Brown said of the Warriors. “They got a couple of offensive rebounds on us. I thought we ran kind of bad offense that led to an imbalanced court and we couldn’t get back on defense because we were running bad offense.”
That changed quickly in the second quarter. Reserve point guard William Fairley netted a 3-point basket from the top of the arc on the opening possession and the Bulldogs were off and running — literally. Anniston held Cherokee County scoreless for almost six minutes and outscored the Warriors 20-2 in the second quarter.
“We had a great first quarter and they just keep coming at you,” Cherokee County coach Neal Wester said. “They’re very well coached and athletic, play great defense and when they get hot that’s a very bad combination as an opponent.”
After connecting on just one 3-point attempt in the first half, the Bulldogs drilled four triples in the third quarter. Hunter Rouse had one from the right wing 15 seconds after the second half started and another from the left corner midway through the period. Milton added one from the left wing. Anniston held the ball for a final shot the last 45 seconds. Fairley canned a long trey from the top just before the buzzer and the Bulldogs led 53-17.
“We did a really good job of getting stops that allowed us to run because we weren’t taking it out of the net a lot,” Brown said. “We rebounded the ball really well. This is one of the better nights we’ve had rebounding the ball as a team.”
Hall led Anniston with 17 points. Milton scored 11 points and Montgomery 10. Fairley and Rouse each finished with two 3-pointers for six points. Jordan Ferrell and Malcolm Harvey contributed five points apiece.
Moore led the Warriors with seven points and Caden Hubbard had four points. Wester saw his team’s season end at 21-7.
“I was proud of our guys. We gave a good effort, played a great season,” Wester said. “Hated that it ended that way. I think we’re a little better than that score indicated but give Anniston credit. They’re really good.”