ALPINE -- Winterboro added another milestone to what has been a historic season Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs defeated Faith Christian 70-57 in a Class 1A subregional high school basketball playoff game to advance to the Northeast Regional tournament for the first time in 15 years.
The Bulldogs will take on Cedar Bluff on Thursday night at 7 at Pete Mathews Coliseum on the campus of Jacksonville State University.
“The team I had five years ago laid the foundation for us to get where we are now,” Winterboro head coach Sheroderick Smith said. “Winning the area for the first time in a long time and advancing to the Sweet 16 puts us four games away from having the opportunity to win it all. That says a lot about the kids that committed from the summer.
“I want to get to a point where we have over exceeded our expectations. I don’t want to just get here and that’s that. I don’t want us to win the area and beat (Talladega County Central) and that’s that. We have set some goals.
“I think tonight when we got up several times, we played laid back because that is where experience kicks in. We don’t have experience in the playoffs right now, so we are going to have those up-and-down runs.
“The teams that we are going to see in the regionals possibly, they are not going to do that to us. If you want to go as far as you can go, you have to play possession basketball.
“Right now, it is a great ride for us, but I do not want it to end. Our guys have seen the girls have a pretty successful program over the years, and now, they have ‘Something to Prove,’ which is our team’s motto.”
After a close first half, Winterboro was able to put the game away in the third quarter. Faith Christian ended the first half on an 8-2 run to cut Winterboro’s lead to 33-27.
The Lions carried the momentum into the third quarter. Faith Christian opened the period with baskets by Jack Sillis and Jordan Griswould to cut the lead to 33-31, but that’s as close as the Lions would get.
Winterboro responded with a 16-5 run to end the quarter to take a 51-36 lead going into the fourth period. Quinton Hale scored five of his game-high 17 points during the run. His 3-pointer with 2:50 left in the stanza gave the Bulldogs a 44-36 advantage.
Alexander McGhee nailed a pull-up 3-pointer to increase the lead to 47-36. Tae Graham capped off the run with back-to-back layups to give the Bulldogs a 51-36 advantage going into the final eight minutes.
“The reason we went on a 16-5 run is because we have players that can hit big shots,” Smith said. “In my opinion, people think just because we get into a funk that we don’t have players that can hit big shots.
“We have players that can hit big shots. We have certain players that have the green light. We got fuel from the student section; they were crazy. Even the fans chipped in tonight. We have been trying to show the power of synergy. When you have synergy, you have a moving force that will go forward.
“We almost had some big alley oops tonight; we are an exciting basketball team.”
Winterboro’s lead increased to 20 points in the fourth quarter.
Khalil Keith scored 17 points, pulled down 12 rebounds and made two blocks. The junior forward said he is elated to back in the regional tournament. Keith was a member of Talladega’s basketball team that made the regional tournament last season.
“It is an awesome feeling to make it back to the regional tournament,” Keith said. “We are going to have to bring it from the jump.”
Leon Hale had a strong outing as he had 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Tae Graham filled up the stat sheet for Winterboro with 10 points, seven assists, four rebounds and four steals. Alexander chipped in with nine points.
Griswould and Sills led Faith Christian with 15 points apiece.