Tigers defeat Decatur to win first area tournament since 2008
By Russell Frye
For the Enquirer
The Hartselle Tigers took care of business Friday night when they defeated the Decatur Red Raiders 72-66 for the Class 6A, Area 14 tournament title. The victory gave the Tigers their first area tournament title since 2008.
This was the third time the two teams have played this season, with the Tigers winning the previous two 58-46 and 72-63.
The Tigers got 10 points from sophomore Brody Peebles and jumped out to a 22-13 lead in the first quarter – and never looked back.
Hartselle (22-7) was led by Peebles’ 29 points, while Keondre Swoopes added a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
“Brody and Keondre were both outstanding tonight in taking control of the offense and getting themselves and others involved,” said Hartselle Coach Faron Key.
The Red Raiders (12-17) struggled to get anything going offensively before scoring 26 points in the final quarter. Decatur was led by Kaden Rosencrance with 18 points and Kenneth Sanders, who finished with 14 points.
Peebles scored 18 of his 29 points in the first half as the Tigers built a 35-25 lead at halftime.
Hartselle also got nine points from Tad Sivley and eight points from Will Stephenson. Hartselle’s largest lead of 16 came late in the third quarter.
Decatur outscored the Tigers 26-19 in the fourth quarter to cut their final deficit to six points.
“I didn’t particularly love the fourth-quarter effort defensively,” said Key. “I thought we played to let the clock run out after having the 16-point lead.”
The Tigers outrebounded the Red Raiders 34-25. Hartselle had several offensive rebounds, which led to several second and third chances for points, especially during the first half.
The Tigers’ defense had 13 steals that led to easy lay-ups as they were building their early lead.
“The difference in the game was our defense – ironic, I know,” said Key. “I wasn’t happy with our defense, but we created turnovers that led to some transition buckets.”
The last time Hartselle won the area title was in 2008, when the Tigers defeated Brewer 47-44 – a team also coached by current Decatur head coach Sam Brown.
“I am happy to get the win tonight. This is really big for our program, school and our community,” said Key. “The win means we’ll get to host a sub-regional game Tuesday night.”
Tuesday night’s sub-regional game was set to be a battle of ranked teams as Hartselle, ranked No. 9, got to host No. 1 Columbia, which was upset by Muscle Shoals. The game results were not available prior to press time.