Eddie Bullock knew he needed another shooter to take pressure off of his star guard.
The Anniston girls basketball coach also knew his best option needed to drop a few pounds to become more effective that way, so he and Airriana Colley did a diet challenge together during the offseason.
It all paid off for a state championship, and Colley has a big weight off of her shoulders after signing with Wallace-Selma.
The late scholarship offer will allow Colley to reunite with former Anniston teammate Toniah Foster and continue her playing career. Colley signed at her home in a private ceremony amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Honestly, I chose it because I wanted to play another year with my best friend, Toniah Foster,” Colley said. “I just talked to the coach, and I just liked his vibe.”
Colley averaged 6.4 points a game as a senior, helping Anniston’s girls to their first state championship. She was a constant 3-point threat, however, and showed it with six 3-pointers in Anniston’s victory over Sacred Heart in the Calhoun County final.
This came in a game where star point guard Allasha Dudley struggled against Sacred Heart’s Serena Hardy and a box-and-chase defense.
It was precisely the kind of scenario Bullock had in mind for Colley this past season.
“She meant a lot,” he said, “In order for us to be successful, we had to have somebody to take the pressure off of Allasha. We needed a consistent 3-pointer shooter. She came through for me. She was solid.”
One key was weight loss. Bullock challenged Colley in a weight-loss competition, and he lost 20 pounds to Colley’s 19.
“I told her she needed to go on a diet so she could run better, and she can have better wind,” Bullock said. “She gained a lot more confidence shooting the ball.”
Colley said the diet lasted about two months. She and Bullock gave up fried food, carbohydrates and sweets.
“It wasn’t hard at all, because I was a very committed person,” she said.
Colley also had 52 assists and 67 steals for Anniston, which finished 29-3 and beat Deshler 61-51 in the Class 4A final in Birmingham. Colley hit a big 3-pointer during the Bulldogs’ key, 11-2 run to gain separation in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs also bagged their seventh Northeast Regional title and 20th county title. They won their final 19 games.
Colley was a second-team 4A-6A All-Calhoun County selection.
“It means a lot to know that, before you graduated high school, you made history,” Colley said.