Best of the best

Talladega junior forward Kobe Simmons (left) earned first-team all-state honors in Class 4A. Tigers head coach Chucky Miller (middle) took home 4A boys Coach of the Year honors. Junior D’Corian Wilson was the third member of the state championship squad to be recognized. He was named third-team all-state.

East central Alabama was well-represented on the 2019 Alabama Sports Writers Association All-State Basketball Team, which was released Saturday.

The Daily Home’s coverage area had seven players earn all-state honors and one Coach of the Year.

Talladega

Class 4A state champion Talladega had two players selected all-state.

Kobe Simmons earn first-team honors. Simmons averaged 16.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Simmons played his best basketball during the postseason. He recorded 28 points and 12 rebounds against DAR in the Sweet 16. In the Northeast Regional final, he scored 21 points and pulled down eight rebounds against Anniston to earn MVP honors.

Simmons also earned all-tournament honors at the Final Four.

“What a great year,” Talladega head coach Chucky Miller said. “He led us in both scoring and rebounding all year. He had some really good games this year. His double-doubles carried us most of the year. In three games, he had a double-double at halftime, which is unheard of. He is relentless going to the basket, his jump shot was good and he could read our missed shots. He is  a great offensive rebounder.”

D’Corian Wilson was selected third-team all-state. Wilson averaged 11.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. In the postseason, however, Wilson stepped his game up to another level has he averaged 18.5 points in four games in the Northeast Regional Tournament and the Final Four.

“D’Corian improved greatly during the course of the year,” Miller said. “He has been working on his jump shot all year. In the last five games in the playoffs, he was 9 for 17 on 3s. He was over 50 percent, and all of them were big shots when we had to have them. When you get that shot going with his penetration and passing ability, he is going to be a total player.”

Miller was selected 4A Coach of the Year, his second such honor from the ASWA. Miller has 759 wins in his career and won his first state championship March 1.

Miller led Talladega to the Final Four for the third straight season. Talladega struggled at the beginning of the campaign but was able to get things going into the second half of the season.  

After losing in the area title game, Miller had to made changes to his roster and lineup. Those decisions played a significant role in helping Talladega win its first state crown in any sport in the playoff era.

“This goes to all the players and the coaches that have helped me,” Miller said. “We were resilient during the year. Sometimes, we looked good, and sometimes, we looked bad, but we got all the coaches and players to turn this around.

“We were playing great ball from Christmas on. I believe we won 21 out of or last 24 once the team jelled together.

“I am just proud of our guys and the way we played. We played our hearts out, and it seemed like once we got to the playoffs, we had so much confidence and we wanted to back it up every night.”

Sylacauga

Malik Powell was named third-team all-state for Sylacauga. Powell averaged 12.3 points, 3.8 assists, three rebounds and two steals per game for the Aggies.

Powell led Sylacauga (24-8) to the Elite 8, where the Aggies fell to Ramsay 59-58.

“It is a great accomplishment,” Sylacauga head coach Will Copeland said. “He is a competitor, he did a lot of things for us this year. He only averaged 12 points per game, but he would have a lot of assists, he would get in there and get a rebound or deflection. He is a part of what we try to do pressing. He was extremely valuable to us as a player this year.”

Childersburg

The Lady Tigers had a historic season, finishing 33-2 and falling to Rogers in a 4A Final Four semifinal.

Eunique McKinney was selected second-team all-state. The junior guard averaged 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds.

“She finished with 183 steals, which is 11th all-time for a single season in Alabama,” Childersburg head coach Gavin KIng said. “Steals is a stat that not every school keeps up with, but it very important for us because we play man defense, and a lot of our offense is based on getting points off turnovers.

“Moving forward to next year, we are going to need even more because she is going to have to take a bigger role in defending the other team’s best player.

“Her steals really sparked some runs for us. She got better during the year knowing when to and when not to go for some of those and stay out of foul trouble. We are expecting another great year of steals for her (in 2019-20).”

Jailah Swain was named honorable mention all-state. Swain averaged 11.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game and recorded 101 steals on the season.

“Jaliah guarded the other team’s best player every night the last two years,” King said. “Whether it was man to-man or face-guarding deny all the way to Birmingham, where she held Rogers’ best player to nine points, she does a really good job playing defense.

“This year, she transitioned to the point guard role. She was a guard last year. She got better handling the ball and shooting the ball in the offseason. She hit some big 3s in Birmingham for us.

“She really got better from her junior to senior year. We are going to miss her productivity. Her hard work was a good example for the underclassmen and, hopefully, they will work as hard as she did to improve.”

Pell City

Mary Denman Luker earned 6A second-team all-state honors for the Lady Panthers. The senior guard averaged 26 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.4  steals and 2.8 assists per game.

Luker led the Lady Panthers to a 17-8 record and finished with 2,623 career points.

“We had a great year, and she was a big part of it,”Pell City head coach Jennifer Lee said. “She was a great leader for those younger kids, and it was a result of her hard work.

“She is a pure shooter. She was having to run the point guard position for us, therefore, she didn't get the looks that pure shooters would get.

“We were able to run her off screens to get the ball back to her after she had given it up. We just ran our stuff and we were patient. We had 10 different sets that we were able to run. Everybody bought in and did their job.”

TC Central

Faith Johnson was named honorable mention all-state for the Lady Fighting Tigers in 1A.

Johnson averaged 17 points per game. The freshman guard, who has been on varsity since seventh grade, joined the 1,000 point club midway through the season .

“It is a great accomplishment for any grade level, but it is very sensational for a freshman,” TC Central head coach Robert Duncan said. “For someone as humble as Faith Johnson, is it is a testament to the work that she puts in day in and day out.

“Even when she is not having a great shooting night, she is still hustling, playing great defense and maintaining a good attitude on and off the court. ... I think she can only go higher from this.” 

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