Top-tier teams

Sylacauga is ranked fourth in the ASWA Class 5A poll, which was released Wednesday

Tucker Webb/The Daily Home

A pair of Talladega County boys basketball teams earned spots in the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Top 10 poll for Class 5A this week.

Sylacauga (7-1) landed at No. 4, while Talladega (6-1) claimed No. 8 in the rankings. The teams will face each other Friday night at Sylacauga.

“It’s great for the kids to see that and to get recognized for all their hard work,” Aggies head coach Will Copeland said. “I’m proud of it for the kids, the school and our basketball program.

“We just try to keep working. We know that if you don’t play, you’re going to be out of the rankings. It probably means a lot to the kids, but to me, I know that it’s what you do at the end of the year that counts. That’s what we’re working toward is being a good basketball team at the end of the year, too.”

Copeland, whose squad is a season removed from a run to the Final Four, said his team has worked hard to overcome a bad summer.

“We’re just working to get better, but like I’ve said, summers are great because they identify where you’re at and what you’ve got to do,” he said. “We’ve tried to do that everyday with practice, film or playing a tough opponent. We’re just trying to figure out what we can do to get better, and that’s something you have to study and work on.”

Sylacauga’s lone loss of the season came during the Med-Center Capstone Classic in Tuscaloosa against 7A No. 7 Huffman. The Aggies fell to the the Vikings 78-73, but the loss marked a speed bump in an otherwise hot start for Copeland’s crew.

“We’ve definitely had a tough early part of our schedule, especially in Tuscaloosa at that tournament and being on the road playing against Childersburg, which is always a tough place to play,” Copeland said. “We just try to be better every day when we come to practice and go to games …

“I told the guys the other day. I said, ‘Look, there’s a lot of teams out there struggling and the record’s not so good, but they’re working still.’ No matter what your record is, you’ve still got to work. We have some momentum, but you’ve got to keep going. We want to steadily rise throughout the season, not get up really high, then go down ...”

Talladega lost 71-58 to 6A Albertville at the North Shelby Tip-Off in Chelsea, but the Tigers have reeled off four straight wins against Benjamin Russell, Anniston, Talladega County Central and Handley.

“It’s alway nice to be ranked. It means people are looking at you around the state,” Talladega head coach Chucky Miller said. “We’ve got a lot of games to play, but I’m happy about it.”

Miller said he feels like his team is still in preseason form after getting off to a late start to the season.

“I only had one week of practice with the full team, and we’ve been playing about three games a week, so our practice time has been limited,” he said. “That’s the way it is this year. The season is kind of condensed. We’ve just got to get better each game, and I still think we’re going to get better as the season progresses.”

Talladega’s girls also earned a Top 10 ranking. The Lady Tigers (2-1) checked in at No. 9 in 5A.