BIRMINGHAM -- In their previous three matchups, it was Talladega that made plays in the fourth quarter to win the game, but when it mattered the most Wednesday night, Sylacauga was the team that got it done.
Cold shooting hurt the Tigers in their 59-55 loss to Sylacauga in the Class 5A semifinals in Legacy Arena inside the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex.
This was Talladega’s second year in a row to fall in a Final Four semifinal. The Tigers finished 21-10.
“I don’t know what the fourth-quarter percentage is -- we got 19 shots, but we hit four,” Talladega head coach Chucky Miller said. “We were driving to the hole and we were trying to get some calls. We had a couple to go in and come out. My three guards shot 37 or 38 shots, and neither of the three had a free throw.”
Poor shooting and the lack of calls frustrated Talladega on Wednesday.
Talladega played its brand of basketball, consistently attacking on both ends of the court. In previous games, when Talladega attacked on the offensive end, the Tigers would make several trips to the free-throw line, but on Wednesday, they were rewarded with few of those.
Talladega finished 3 of 5 from the charity stripe, while Sylacauga went 11 of 16.
“Look at the foul sheet, you will see everything,” Talladega’s Ashton Duncan said. “Me and Fred (Dickerson) did not go to the foul line not one time. Normally, we would go to the line 10 times, eight times a game, and tonight, the referees didn’t give us anything. We played our hearts out, we put it all on the line, we just didn’t get any calls.”
Talladega trailed for much of the game but outscored Sylacauga 20-13 in the third quarter to tie the game at 45-all going to the final period.
Erron Bryant and Malik Crawford sparked an Sylacauga 8-2 run to start the quarter. Crawford capped off the spurt with a two-hand dunk to give the Aggies a 53-47 lead with 4:13 left.
Offensively, Talladega wasn’t able to get anything going until late, especially when Duncan left the game after missing a layup with an ankle injury. Talladega went scoreless for more than three minutes.
Kobe Simmons was able to get the Tigers back in the game. The sophomore scored six of his team-high 16 points in the final two minutes, including a putback to cut the lead to 57-55 with 6.9 seconds to go.
Talladega would foul Crawford, who would put the game away by nailing both free throws to give Sylacauga a 59-55 lead. Crawford scored eight of his 27 points in the final period.
Dickerson, Duncan and fellow guard Chaztin Tanner scored eight points apiece for Talladega.
Miller will have the tough task of replacing his four seniors. In three seasons, they won 68 games and made two trips to the Final Four.
“Fred, Ashton, Tyrese (Scales) have played for me for three years, and they just about won 70 games,” Miller said. “This the first time that I had three guards to play for me for three years. Jay Patterson came along at the end and helped us win a lot of games. The four seniors that we had did an excellent job.”