BIRMINGHAM -- Sylacauga held on to defeat Eufaula 79-78 in overtime in the Class 5A state championship game Saturday morning at Legacy Arena in the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex.
This is Sylacauga’s first state championship since 1988.
“I am proud of them,” Sylacauga head coach Will Copeland said. “We got down and we stuck with it. I am happy for our players, I am happy for our basketball program. We worked really hard to get here. These guys, we run them every day (except) the day before a game. They come out there every day to get better.”
Eufaula used a late run to send the game into the extra stanza. Marquise Jones’s putback tied the game at 66-all.
Darian Garrett had a chance to win it, but his 3-pointer was off the mark.
Sylacauga went on a 9-4 run to open the overtime period. Desmon Jones scored six of his 16 points during the spurt.
“I knew we worked too hard for it to end bad,” Jones said. “(I) was trying to get the ‘W’ for the city.”
Garrett nailed a pair of free throws to increase Sylacauga’s lead to 77-70 with 1:20 left.
The Tigers battled their way back in the game behind the play of Laquaveous Nelson. The junior forward sparked an 8-2 run to cut the lead to 79-78 with 41 seconds to go.
Sylacauga had a chance to seal the victory, but Jones missed two free throws with 14 seconds remaining.
After getting a stop, Garrett missed a pair of free throws with four seconds left. Sylacauga struggled from the free-throw line, finishing 22 of 41.
Nelson had a chance to win the game for Eufaula, but his desperation 3-pointer was no good.
Malik Crawford was selected the tournament MVP. Crawford finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
“It means a lot to us,” Crawford said about being state champions. “At the beginning of the year, our coaches told us that they were going to push us as hard as they could to put us in the position to compete for a state championship. We never came out and said that we were going to win it, but we always had it in the back of our minds that if we worked as hard as we could that we had a chance, and that is what happened today.
“All the things that we did throughout the season helped put us in the position to win, and our coaches put us in great position to go out there and make plays. It just means a lot to everybody because we had a lot of people supporting us throughout. I would like to thank the Lord for putting us in position to bring it back to Sylacauga.”
The Aggies’ refuse-to-lose mentality was tested by Eufaula. The Tigers went on a 12-0 run to take to take a 51-40 lead in the third quarter.
Sylacauga, however, regrouped and went on a 22-2 run to take a 59-53 lead with 3:28 left in the fourth quarter.
“It was the same thing that coach tells us all anytime we get down, don’t quit and persevere through anything,” Crawford said. “We know if he work as a team and go out and fight, anything can happen.
“As coach said, with (six-tenths of a second) left (against Booker T. Washington in the Sweet 16), everybody though our season was over with, but we kept working, pushing through it and persevered, and we got it done, (winning 51-50). We have been doing that most of the season, we just did it again tonight.”
Garrett closed with 14 points. Malik Powell added 13 for the Aggies. Powell and Jones were named to the all-tournament team.
“It is a blessing,”Powell said. “We worked so hard and we ran so much. It is a blessing, we just didn’t give up, we had to win for the city.”