Top-ranked Talladega struggled early and often offensively in a 62-49 loss to Anniston in the Class 4A, Area 9 Tournament championship game Thursday night at Chuck Miller Arena.
Saying the iron was unkind to the home team would be an understatement as Talladega went 17-for-76 from the field.
Talladega will travel for a sub-regional matchup for the second season in a row. The Tigers will face the Area 10 winner on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
“When you start out 2-for-18 in the first quarter against an excellent Anniston team, it is going to be an uphill battle,” Talladega head coach Chucky Miller said. “We had eight different people shoot shots in the first half, and they didn’t go in.
“A lot of times when it is a bad (offensive game), you lose your defense assignments, and that’s why they pushed the lead up to 20 at halftime. Bad offense, and we lost our composure on defense. We gained it back, but they hit enough free throws to win the game.”
Coming off a semifinal win over Lincoln, Anniston took control in the opening minutes for the second straight game. The Bulldogs jumped out a 14-4 lead behind the strong play of tournament MVP Antonio Kite. The sophomore guard scored six of his game-high 41 points in the opening period, including a 3 to make it 12-4.
The Bulldogs’ 2-3 zone played a major role in Talladega’s offensive woes. The Tigers went nearly seven minutes without scoring, a drought that stretched from the first period into the second.
Anniston capitalized by going on a 14-0 run to start the second period. Kite scored seven points during the spurt, including a dunk off a Talladega turnover to make it 28-4.
D’Corian Wilson ended the Tigers’ drought when he hit a jumper to make it 28-6. Anniston took a 34-15 lead into intermission.
Anniston head coach Torry Brown though his team did a great job of holding Talladega to one shot on offense, especially with the way the Tigers shot the ball in the first 16 minutes.
“It was key (rebounding) when they didn’t make a shot early on,” Brown said. “It seemed like they stayed at four for a long time.
“We got some timely turnovers. Antonio Kite would get back on defense, and they would try to throw over him, and he would jump up and get it or we would get a deflection, which would lead to easy layups. I think we got more easy points than they did tonight.”
Talladega opened the third quarter on a 6-2 run that included Kobe Simmons hitting his first shot of the game to cut the deficit to 36-21.
Kite, however, continued to be a matchup problem for the Tigers, scoring 10 points in the third period to help the Bulldogs take a 48-24 lead into the fourth.
“I think I played well, but not to my potential,” Kite said. “I got my teammates involved, and they hit some big shots. I played hard on defense, and we came away with the win.”
Talladega cut the lead in half when it opened the final eight minutes with a 17-5 run and pulled within 53-41, but that would be as close as the Tigers would get.
Arron Greene led the way for Talladega with 12 points. Nigel Scales scored 11. Simmons contributed nine, while Wilson chipped in with eight.