EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect that TC Central has won back-to-back area titles and that TC Central will face the loser between Isabella and Autaugaville.
HOWELL’S COVE -- Talladega County Central High School’s girls basketball team defeated rival Winterboro 64-34 in the Class 1A, Area 7 championship game at Clarence Marble Gymnasium on Wednesday night.
It was TC Central's second consecutive area tournament crown.
Eighth-grade point guard Faith Johnson returned to the Lady Fighting Tigers’ lineup after missing Monday’s game with an injury and led the way with 16 points, earning a spot on the all-tournament team.
“It’s so great to see her back in uniform,” TC Central coach Robert Duncan said. “Our overall team, it was so hard to pick an MVP because we had so many girls that played so well. My hat’s off to the girls for the effort that they put in. They played through some adverse situations and really stepped up.
“We took on a good Winterboro team. My hat’s off to them, and good luck to them the rest of the way. We know they’re going to represent our area well.”
The Lady Fighting Tigers controlled the action for the bulk of a chippy, foul-filled contest. The teams combined for 48 fouls, including 29 personal fouls and a pair of technical fouls by TC Central.
“Naturally, any time you play a rivalry game, everybody’s going to be a little more intense and the energy’s going to be high,” Duncan said. “Like I tell the girls, ‘It’s our job to adjust to the officiating.’ Some officials call it loose, some call it tight. We made the adjustment and we were able to use 12 girls to make it through the transition period just so we didn’t get girls fouled out early in the ballgame.”
TC Central jumped out to a 20-8 lead in the opening quarter and held a 42-16 advantage at halftime.
“I don’t think there was a lot of fouling in the first half, but I do think it got out of hand in the second half,” Winterboro head coach Sheroderick Smith said. “Our girls still have to play with composure … and stick to the game plan.
“Sometimes when you have a team that’s up and down like this, you’ve got to take the good with the bad. Praise the good and make corrections for the bad.”
Both offenses stalled in the third stanza, each putting up six points to make the score 48-24.
TC Central shooting guard Ja’Miya Whitson added nine points and earned tournament MVP honors.
“Just the overall steadiness of her play throughout the tournament really propelled us,” Duncan said. “She probably had double-digit steals in both of our tournament games, and just her defensive presence alone made a maximum difference in the tournament. She was able to score transition baskets on offense, and she really brought a lot of energy to us.”
Freshman forward Alisha Morris and eight-grade center Amiya Sillmon rounded out TC Central’s all-tournament selections.
Kya Brown scored a team-high six points for the Lady Bulldogs. Aleise Walton, Ta’Nequa Moton and Amiya Garrett represented Winterboro on the all-tournament team.
TC Central will host the loser of Autaugaville and Isabella in a sub-regional playoff game, while Winterboro will travel to face the winner. Both games will be Monday night at 7.
“This will be our third time going on the road (in the sub-regionals),” Smith said. “I’ve seen both teams that we’ll probably play, and we’re just going to, hopefully, be more confident in our abilities, trust our abilities and go from there.”