Bringing out the best

Chaztin Tanner (4) and the Tigers fell to Sylacauga in the Final Four last season. 

Talladega High School’s boys basketball team will host rival Sylacauga at Chuck Miller Arena tonight at 7.

The Tigers (4-2) and Aggies (6-2) last met in the Class 5A Final Four at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex on Feb. 28 -- a game Sylacauga won 59-55 on its road to a state championship. Talladega last season faced Sylacauga three times prior to the Final Four meeting and won all three (79-69, 69-66 and 77-73).

“It’s always great to play Sylacauga during the regular season,” Talladega head coach Chucky Miller said. “They’ve got such a good, outstanding program at this time. Both of us lost some key players from last year, so this matchup is just (for) trying to make your team better for the rest of the season. We enjoy playing them, and they enjoy playing us because I believe it brings out the best in both of us.”

Miller said his squad must overcome its lapses in recent outings. The Tigers lost their last two games at Central Coosa (84-73) on Nov. 30 and at Handley (67-62) on Tuesday. Talladega dropped to 4A during the most recent reclassification.

“I’ve been happy sometimes, but the last week or so, we’re not as consistent as we were that first week we were back,” Miller said. “We’ve just got to get more consistent … We’ve got eight new players on varsity since the start of (last season), so there’s going to be some growing pains early. You’re working to get better, and I think both us and Sylacauga have beaten some pretty good teams this year. It’s going to be an interesting matchup.”

He added part of the inconsistency stems from getting back several players who were battling injuries lingering from football season. Despite the rust, Miller said his team shows flashes of what it can be.

“We probably just haven’t had enough practice time to get all the kinks out,” he said. “When we’re playing pretty good, we’re really good, but sometimes, we let our guard down. That’s what we’re working on is keeping our intensity up for longer periods of time.

“We’ve played good competition, and good competition is going to show your weaknesses. We’re trying to take what other teams have showed us and get a little better.”

Miller said he’s found several players on the roster to backfill the guard spots vacated by last year’s seniors, Fred Dickerson and Ashton Duncan.

“I think D’Corian Wilson has had a good start,” Miller said. “He’s handling the ball a lot for us. He came off the (junior varsity) team at the end of the year last year and got some quality minutes towards the end of the (season). I’ve been very impressed with him.

“We’ve got two or three more that’s doing their part well there. Arron Greene has been playing well … The ones we’ve got back (from last year’s team) have been doing a good job between Kobe Simmons, Wilson and (Chaztin) Tanner.

“We’ve just got to get in this rotation, get everybody well and get everybody to learn what they’ve got to do to make the team better.”

Sylacauga head coach Will Copeland said Talladega has a solid basketball program every year.

“They came to our tournament -- the Marble City Classic,” he said. “They’ve got some guys inside, some guys that battle inside and some guards that can shoot. The stuff they do is solid, and the way they play, they play hard and get after you.

“They’re a very tough matchup. Any time you play Talladega, it’s tough, but going to Talladega, it’s really difficult to go and play there.”

The Aggies picked up a pair of victories earlier in the week against Benjamin Russell (66-53 on Monday) and at Lincoln (74-67 on Tuesday), but Copeland said his Aggies are struggling with inconsistency.

“There are times that we play well and stretches in which we play well,” he said. “We’re just not really playing where we want to be right now, but we’re coming in every day trying to get better and trying to improve. We’re going to definitely find out where we’re at after tomorrow night.”

Copeland said his players must learn the team comes before any individual piece of the puzzle.

“There are times in which you’re going to be asked to do things on the floor individually, but everybody’s minutes are not the same,” he said. “We’re just trying to fix internal stuff as far as our basketball team is concerned … We’re just trying to all make sure that everybody is pulling in the same direction.

“We face tough enough opponents, especially tomorrow night. We don’t need to be facing off with ourselves. We have to make sure we’re all getting after it and that we’re living and breathing the same dream, and that’s to go as far as we can this year.”