Talladega headed to Sweet 16

Essence Cunningham and the Lady Tigers will take on Arab on Saturday at Jacksonville State.

Tucker Webb/The Daily Home

TALLADEGA -- The Talladega High School girls basketball team used a huge first half to defeat Boaz 54-26 in a Class 5A Northeast sub-regional Monday night.

With the win, Talladega advances to the 5A Northeast Regional tournament at Jacksonville State on Saturday. The Lady Tigers will take on Arab. Tipoff time will be set after all the sub-regional games have been played on Tuesday night.

“Congratulations to my girls,” Talladega head coach Jannie Keith said. “Amaz (Carmichael) and Camille (Buckhanon) had awesome games. Every round gets a little higher and harder. We didn’t do some things right, so we have to go back to the chalkboard and work on some things that I see that we didn’t do right.”

The Lady Tigers (30-2) dominated the first 16 minutes of the game, outscoring Boaz 40-2.

Boaz didn’t have an answer for Talladega’s twin towers -- Buckhanon and Carmichael -- who combined for 22 points in the first quarter.

Carmichael was active on both ends of the court, which set the tone for Talladega. The 6-foot-3 forward    scored 14 of her 18 points in the opening period. Carmichael was able to score easy points in transition. She also did damage on the offensive glass with back-to-back putbacks to give Talladega a 16-0 edge.

Buckhanon had a strong first quarter. The Memphis signee was surrounded by three Boaz defenders every time she touched the ball, but she managed to score eight of her 17 points in the period, including a layup to put Talladega ahead 22-2.

Carmichael collected an offense rebounded and took it back up for a layup as time expired to give the Lady Tigers a 24-2 advantage going into the second quarter.

Tiona Roberson scored six of her nine points in the second quarter for Talladega. The sophomore guard hit back-to-back floaters to give Talladega a 30-2 lead.

Carmichael scored six straight points to increase the margin to 36-2. Carmichael’s height and length forced a turnover, which led into an uncontested layup. On an inbound pass, a Boaz player tried unsuccessfully to throw the ball over Carmichael. Carmichael was able to deflect the pass and take it in for a layup.

Talladega took a 40-2 lead into halftime.

“We played some really good defense tonight,” Keith said. “I took my three key players out (in the second half) to let my young girls play and see what they can do because we are going to need them down the line. … We are looking forward to whatever we have to come up against. My girls tonight played the defense that I am used to seeing, and they worked well as a team tonight.”

Buckhanon, Carmichael and Roberson spent most of the second half as spectators. Boaz took advantage, outscoring Talladega 24-24 over the final 16 minutes.

Talladega fell in the opening round of the Northeast Regional tournament last season. Keith said some days off will benefit her team going into Saturday’s game.

“We have played several games back-to-back, and I think right now that it is helping us,” Keith said. “We need a break. We are going to go back to the chalkboard and look at some X’s and O’s. We are going to look at some film and see what we can improve on. There are definitely some things that we need to improve on.”