Austin’s run ends in the Final Four

Caleb Suggs

Hartselle Enquirer

“This run put Austin back on the map.” Austin senior Javan Johnson said as he tried to fight back tears “I hope they can bring it home one day.” Johnson’s emotion after his Black Bear’s had just suffered a 70-57 loss to the Paul Bryant Stampede perfectly described the feelings of every Austin fan in the building. The Austin faithful turned out in full for the school’s first final four appearance in a decade and they hoped to see them take a step towards their first championship since 1993. Unfortunately for the Bears, it was not meant to be.

The two teams went back and forth almost the whole game. Javan Johnson scored five points in the first quarter to give Austin the lead 12-10 at the end of the first. Josh Birdsong pushed the Bear’s lead to 14-10 to start the second and Anthony Mason added a dunk. Bryant took the lead back but two free throws from Johnson and a basket from Fabian Bell gave Austin the lead back 23-22. Johnson added another three pointer and the Bears looked to add another in the closing seconds, but Bryant’s Kaliex Stephens came up with a steal and sinked a buzzer beating trey to give the Stampede the halftime lead 28-26.

In the third quarter, Austin started on a 5-0 run thanks to baskets from Johnson, Mason and Birdsong. However, Bryant hit a 14-3 run from there to end the quarter with a 42-34 lead. Javan Johnson hit a near half court shot at the buzzer but the refs waived it off as a no shot, much to the dismay of the Austin players and fans. After that run, the wheels fell completely off Austin’s bus. Austin never closed the lead any closer than eight points in the fourth and the Black Bears eventually lost 70-57. Javan Johnson led the Black Bears with 18 points while Josh Birdsong finished second with 16. Anthony Mason had 12 in the game. Jared Sherfield led Bryant with 23 points.

After the game, Austin coach Jake Miles credited Bryant’s third quarter run as a big change in the game. “They were spreading the ball around and creating mismatches for us.” Miles said. “They got on a run but we didn’t want to call a timeout and stop it because that was the speed we wanted to play. We just hoped we would be able to turn it around but unfortunately we didn’t get any bounces our way.” Miles also talked about what a special season this was for him and for Austin High School. “I just want to say how proud I am of these kids. They’re special kids.” Miles said. “I’m going to really miss these seniors.”

With the win, Paul Bryant won their 12th game in a row after being 11-11 and advanced to the class 6A state finals. Austin finishes the season with a 29-6 record. The Black Bears will graduate eight seniors off this team including starters Jason Scott, Anthony Mason and Javan Johnson.

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