Talladega High School’s boys basketball team will look for a measure of revenge against rival Sylacauga at Douglass-Martin Court tonight at 7:30.
The Aggies (14-4), ranked No. 4 in Class 5A, bested the Tigers 66-58 at Chuck Miller Arena on Dec. 7, but the loss came in the heart of a stretch where Talladega went 2-5 coming out of the Thanksgiving break.
The Tigers (14-5), ranked No. 8 in 4A, enter tonight’s game riding a nine-game winning streak.
“We played them about a month ago, and they got the best of us at our place,” Talladega head coach Chucky Miller said. “We need to see if we’re a little better than we were a month ago. I think we’re playing better, and we’re anxious to come to Sylacauga.”
Miller said he wants his team to stay competitive against quality opponents.
“Playing Sylacauga, Oxford and Anniston, these teams that are very good, it’s going to help us towards the end of the season when it really counts,” he said. “We like the tough competition like this that we’re going to get tomorrow night.”
He added his team has more than a handful of players who are averaging nine to 16 points per game.
“All of them have stepped up,” Miller said. “We’re a balanced team. I don’t believe many teams can say, ‘Well, we’re going to stop one or two.’ We’ve got some other guys scoring this year. Our scoring balance has been very good this time.
“We’re trying to get three or four in double figures per game. If we do it, it’s going to give us a good chance to win, but all our players have been playing really good during this winning streak.”
Sophomore Aaron Greene has seen his share of minutes despite not being in the starting lineup.
“(Greene) comes off the bench, but he can play a couple positions,” Miller said. “He’s very smart on the basketball court, so he sees things that happen, and when he comes in there, he tries to react to it. He can make plays both offensively and defensively to help the team win. It’s great that a 10th-grader is producing like that.”
One of the biggest challenges awaiting Talladega tonight is containing the Aggies’ 6-foot-10 junior, Shannon Grant.
“When (Grant) comes in the game, it seems like for two years, he likes to play Talladega,” Miller said. “He always scores good, plays good and hits his shots. I know he got about 10 (points) last time, but we’re going to have to be a little more aggressive guarding him. He just got too many good looks last time. But you can’t help out too much on him because they’ve got other players who are very good also.”
Aggies head coach Will Copeland said the Tigers’ hot streak hasn’t gone unnoticed on his end of the county.
“We’ve got a very hot basketball team coming to our gym tomorrow,” he said. “We’ve got to be ready to play from the tip.”
Sylacauga has won seven of its last nine games, but Copeland said his team has seen some ups and downs during that stretch.
“There have been times in which we’ve played good basketball, and there have been times where it’s really frustrating because we’re not playing up to our potential,” he said. “We won a big area game against Clay Central (78-74 on Tuesday night), so we’re just trying to get better every game and every practice.
“I know playing Talladega in front of a big crowd is going to help us become a better basketball team. We respect them and the basketball program they have. We know they’re going to come out ready to play.”
Copeland said his team must be prepared against a Tigers squad that has plenty of firepower.
“They had some really good players graduate last year, but this year, they’ve got a lot of guys who can score, rebound and … play defense well,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of people we have to look out for tomorrow night.”
The Aggies lost eight seniors from their 5A state championship team a year ago, but at the midway point of the season, Copeland said his team has found a key leader in guard Malik Powell.
“Powell has (stepped up), not only in scoring, but he plays good, solid defense,” he said. “He’s been a leader for us because he’s the one when we’re talking to him and he’s looking at me, listening and communicating to the team, that’s what you’ve got to have.
“You’ve got to have people who are consistent, and that has been Malik. He’s there and scoring for us. ... We’re getting contributions from other guys, but he’s been the main one who has stepped up to the forefront for us.”