Sylacauga High School’s boys basketball team will travel to the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex today to face rival Talladega in a Class 5A Final Four semifinal showdown at 7:30 p.m.
The victor will challenge the winner of the Wenonah/Eufaula semifinal for the state championship Saturday at 10:45 a.m. Both Sylacauga and Talladega (21-9) are making their second straight trip to the Final Four.
Aggies head coach Will Copeland said his team understands the magnitude of the contest.
“It’s a big ballgame,” Copeland said. “They’ve got a great program at Talladega. They’ve beaten us three times this year. We’ve done our best to prepare and worked these kids hard. Hopefully, we can come out and we’ll be ready to play. It’s a big challenge in front of us.”
He added Sylacauga (27-6) must figure out how to stop the Tigers’ trio of guards and the pieces around them.
“Obviously, we’ve had struggles in guarding these guys because they’re very talented -- (Fred) Dickerson, (Ashton) Duncan and (Chaztin) Tanner,” Copeland said. “They’ve got other guys that go with them. No. 30 (Kobe Simmons) does a good job.
“They’re a very tough team to stop because they can not only shoot, but they can also drive, they finish at the rim and they do a good job defensively. We’re hoping to just do what we’ve been doing … It’s a tough team, but we’re going to give it our best shot.”
The Aggies have fallen prey to slow starts in the past four games against Briarwood Christian, Demopolis, Booker T. Washington and Calera, but they’ve managed to prevail in each outing.
“That’s something we talk about,” Copeland said. “We’ve identified it, but for some reason, we haven’t really made a dent in it as far as getting off to a good start. This time of year, a bad start can cost you. That’s something we’ve got to be aware of -- getting off to a good start tomorrow night.”
Copeland said both teams have plenty to play for, and there will be plenty of eyes watching the rivals battle.
“They’re a good opponent,” he said. “It’s a big game for both teams. Both teams are wanting to play for a state championship and have that opportunity. We’re 20 miles apart, so it’s a big deal for both communities. We’ve put in the work, and I know they have, too. We’ve just got to tip it up and see what happens.”