Thoughts on the regional so far
Justin Schuver, Sports Editor
HANCEVILLE – I'll admit it; I really wanted to see a Brewer-Hartselle rematch in the Northwest Regional final. These are two teams that are near mirror images of each other, even in their record against each other during the season (2-2). I know the atmosphere Friday morning would have been absolutely electric if it had come down to an all-Morgan County regional final.
It's disappointing to see the Lady Patriots go out early, especially because I really felt they could have won Tuesday's game if only their shots had fallen. They shot 3-of-21 from behind the arc, but it was not a case of Brewer rushing a three-point shot and shooting an airball. Nearly every shot at least hit the rim, and several went halfway down before bouncing out again. It was especially bizarre, because Brewer hit three of its first four three-pointers then went cold for the rest of the game. Somebody must have said something to anger the basketball gods.
You can't say enough about the Lady Patriots' season. This was a team that started the year unranked and quietly continued to win and build a name for themselves down the stretch. They scored 100-plus points at the Morgan County tournament and followed that up with an impressive win over Hartselle in the final. And then, as if to prove that county victory was no fluke, they did it again – and on Hartselle's home floor this time – in the area tournament. The Lady Patriots seemed to pride themselves on being the scrappy underdog, and that is a credit to their five seniors and a coaching staff who helped the program to 23 wins and a 13-game winning streak before the loss Tuesday morning. As Coach Ricky Allen said, they have nothing to be upset about.
You can't help but be impressed by Hartselle, however. This was a team I felt would have some serious trouble heading into the sub-regional against Athens, just because they had lost three of their last six and the games against Athens earlier in the year (though both Hartselle wins) were both very close.
It didn't take the Lady Tigers long to make a believer out of me, again. Hartselle put on what only can be described as a clinic at Athens, with the Lady Tigers raining three-pointers and playing tough defense all night long. Whatever doubts I had about the Lady Tigers were more than answered by that performance against an Athens team that came into the sub-regional with just three losses – though, again, two of those came to Hartselle.
Even after that resounding win over Athens, I still was a little concerned about the Lady Tigers' opening regional game against Pleasant Grove. At this point in the season, the underdogs can really step up and shine – just look at Priceville last year, who was unranked yet took out a Top 5 Class 2A opponent at the Jacksonville regional on the way to Birmingham. Pleasant Grove came into the regional with a mark of 18-12, and the chance to really make a name for itself if it could knock off a Hartselle team that has spent all season in the Top 10.
Instead, the Lady Tigers took the Lady Spartans seriously and led by as many as 18 points on the way to a victory.
Give Hartselle credit. It never even let Cinderella get to the ball, let alone try on the slipper.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM WALLACE:
Kudos to the Brewer students: Although their team lost, the Brewer fanbase was loud and proud even despite the early-morning tip-off, particularly in the first half when Wenonah was shooting at the Brewer students' end of the court. Twice, by chanting "3, 2, 1," the Brewer students tricked the Wenonah players into shooting the ball prematurely (and missing badly) at the end of the first and second quarters.
Delay of game, but no penalty: The start of Hartselle's game against Pleasant Grove was delayed 55 minutes because the previous game – a boys semifinal between Muscle Shoals and Wenonah – went into triple overtime before the Trojans took an 82-75 victory. It was an exciting game that included Muscle Shoals' Greg Johnson making three free throws to send the game into the second overtime.
How about some lottery numbers, coach?: Following the Hartselle boys' sub-region loss to Muscle Shoals Friday evening, Hartselle coach Johnny Berry said he felt that the winner of the regional would be one of Muscle Shoals or Decatur. The two teams will face off in the regional final – Decatur defeated West End-Birmingham 53-32 and Muscle Shoals defeated Wenonah 82-75.