TALLADEGA -- Cleburne County dictated the pace and slowed down Talladega standout Camille Buckhanon, but it wasn’t enough to upset the Lady Tigers in the Class 5A, Area 10 championship game.
With Buckhanon facing triple teams the entire night, Talladega’s Amaz Carmichael took over, scoring 27 points to lead Talladega to a 56-22 win Wednesday.
Talladega will play the winner of Corner/Mortimer Jordan in a Class 5A Northeast sub-regional game Monday at 7 p.m. The game will be at Talladega.
“It was a big win for us. I would like to congratulate my girls,” Talladega head coach Jannie Keith said. “They did a great job. My hat is off to Cleburne County; they came prepared tonight. There for a minute they threw us a chain, but we told them some things that we have not worked on to do and weren’t prepared for. We adjusted, and once we made the adjustments, things started to go our way.”
Cleburne County made it clear in the first quarter it didn’t want to be in an up-and-down-the-floor affair with the Lady Tigers. On offense, Cleburne was patience and deliberate, passing the ball around the perimeter and making cuts until it was able to find a open player cutting to the basket for a layup.
On the defensive end, Cleburne County surrounded Memphis signee Buckhanon with three players every time she touched the ball. Buckhanon was limited to two points in the first quarter.
Olivia McDaniel scored on a pair of layups to help the visiting Lady Tigers take a 6-5 lead going into the second period.
Over the next eight minutes, Talladega picked up the pressure and turned defense into offense.
Carmichael scored eight straight points to start the second period. The lanky 6-foot-3 forward was able to get out in transition and score easy layups. Carmichael gave Talladega a 13-6 advantage off a layup that was started by a Buckhanon blocked shot.
Talladega took a 17-8 lead into halftime.
“Í played my game and did what I normally do,” Carmichael said. “I have been working on shooting the 3 lately in practice. I have been working on my game overall. I have been running the court, so my teammates know if we are on a fast break, they are looking for me.”
Talladega’s defense continued to make life difficult for Cleburne County in the third quarter, forcing five turnovers off the press.
Carmichael also continued to have her way, scoring hustle points off offensive rebounds and running the floor for layups in transition. She also showed off her range as she nailed a 3-pointer from the right corner at the buzzer to give Talladega a 30-12 lead going into the final eight minutes.
“Amaz played big tonight,” Keith said. “I think she is really hungry. You have that player sometimes that at the beginning of the year is a little timid, and she has always given me something but not on a regular basis. I can just remember on the sideline her saying, ‘Girls we have to have this, let’s do this.” I think this was her motivation to the team as well as herself.”
Talladega continued to control things in the fourth quarter, outscoring Cleburne County 26-10. Buckhanon scored five of her 15 points in the period. The tournament MVP wasn’t pleased with the way she played Wednesday, but she said winning the area crown was the only thing that mattered to her.
“Being MVP is an honor,” Buckhanon said. “I started off slow. I didn’t have a good game, but we were still able to pull it off. I would like to thank God and my teammates for letting be the MVP again for my senior year. All my teammates stepped up, especially Amaz. She stepped up big time. We started out slow in the first half, but we picked up in the second half. My teammates just played great overall.”