SYLACAUGA -- Defending Class 4A state basketball champion Talladega outlasted county and area rival Lincoln in a 101-92 double-overtime clash in the Talladega County Tournament semifinals Friday night at Douglass-Martin Court.
The Tigers (18-4) outscored the Golden Bears 17-8 in the second overtime. Junior Arron Greene’s opening basket of the frame served as the go-ahead field goal.
“Hat’s off to Lincoln,” Talladega head coach Chucky Miller said. “What an effort. We survived all their 3-point shooting, and I really don’t know how. We had the lead and we lost it, but we got it back. I guess we had to tie it up both times to get it to overtime.
“I’m proud of our guys. They made plays down the stretch big-time to get us the win.”
Talladega senior guard D’Corian Wilson, who registered a career-high 40 points, proved to be clutch for his squad in two must-score moments.
With Talladega trailing 74-72 with 7.1 seconds left in regulation, Wilson drained two free throws to force overtime.
With the Tigers down 84-82 with 6.7 seconds remaining in the first extra stanza, Wilson went coast-to-coast through Lincoln’s defense for a game-tying layup.
“In them last six seconds, I know my team, they put the ball in my hands, so I had to go down there and make a play,” Wilson said. “They just wanted to get a quick basket. That’s what my team relied on me to do, and I came through for them.”
Miller said he was confident his team would make a play in the final moments of the first overtime.
“It’s six seconds,” he said. “You’ve got plenty of time to get a shot. I knew they probably weren’t going to foul. We just had to make sure he (Wilson) wasn’t going to get double-teamed and we had some other options.
“If he would have gotten doubled, I believe we could have possibly gotten a layup. Six seconds in basketball is forever.”
Senior forward Kobe Simmons kickstarted the Tigers’ offense early, scoring 14 of his 36 points in the first quarter. The Tigers held the lead until midway through the fourth quarter, when the contest became a tug-of-war.
“Last year, we came up short in the county championship,” Simmons said. “This year, we’re just coming up here stronger and having a better season this season. Now, we’ve got to take it more seriously in the county championship than last year.”
Lincoln junior guard Brian Garrett hit six 3-pointers en route to a 31-point night, while senior guard Javion Surles contributed 28 points. Junior forward Tre’von Hines also finished in double figures with 18.
The Golden Bears (12-7) finished 18 of 36 at the charity stripe, and that Achilles’ heel became more apparent from the fourth quarter to game’s end.
Lincoln shot a combined 8 of 18 during the stretch, while Talladega went 18 of 27 in the game’s final 16 minutes.
“If you had told me we were going to get to the free-throw line 36 times, I would have told you we were going to win,” Lincoln head coach Doug Ward said. “We had a couple chances where we could have iced it. We had a couple chances where we had the rebound and had to secure it. We turned it over trying to dribble out of it instead of pivoting and getting it to the guard.
“We did everything we were supposed to do but hit the free throws and finish. I loved the way they kept battling and scrapping. They proved that they can play with anybody, but we’ve got to do those little things.”
Miller said he wasn’t concerned about the outcome in the other semifinal between Sylacauga and Childersburg. He said he was focused more on making sure his players recover from the extra minutes of work.
“They say one overtime is about like a half, so two overtimes is about like a game,” he said. “Once it gets to overtime, every possession is (played) like the last play of the game. That’s how overtimes feel, so I’m just glad we got the lead and hit some key shots down the stretch.
“We just need to rest up … I just hope we’ve got that energy and I hope this game (between Sylacauga and Childersburg goes to double overtime). What’s our best chance for tomorrow night? If this game goes into double overtime.”
Lincoln’s attention now shifts toward the back end of its schedule and the 4A, Area 9 tournament in February, where the Golden Bears will draw Anniston.
Ward said while his team showed it can compete with the best, questions remain.
“I think we can, it’s just a matter of ‘Can we guard the ball if we have to? Can we make stops?’ he said. “When we had to make a stop tonight at the end of the first overtime up by two with eight seconds or whatever and we had to make a stop, we gave up a layup. You can’t win that way.
“You’ve got to be able to guard the ball. You’ve got to be able to make them pass the ball and shoot a contested shot, and we didn’t do that -- and it’s January, so that hurts. If we can do that, we can play with anybody.
“They’ve come a long way. I’m very proud of them, but when it comes crunch time, you’ve got to be able to make the plays, and we haven’t been able to do that yet.”