timberland vest Boys basketball area tournament preview
Josh Bryant acknowledges his team’s 14 12 record isn’t stellar. And while momentum might not mean a whole lot, confidence does, and the Central boys basketball team has more reason for confidence this weekend than it has at any point all season.
The Wildcats closed the regular season in style, beating Class 3A Area 16 top seed Lauderdale County on Thursday and then beating previously unbeaten and Class 5A Area 16 top seed Brooks on Friday.
Central is the top seed in Class 4A Area 16 by virtue of a 5 1 area record and a fortuitous coin flip and will host “the blue school” (arch rival Wilson) at 7:30 Tuesday in a must win area tournament semifinal.
Most area tournaments throughout the Shoals get underway Monday or Tuesday, and it’s finally time to see which teams will make the strongest runs toward a state championship. Hubbard won last year and at least once girls team in the TimesDaily’s coverage area has won a state title every year since 2010.
Senior forward Ralph Barnett, who is 6 foot 2 and 230 pounds, scored 25 points in the Wildcats’ win over Brooks. He is a matchup problem for some teams with his ability to hit an outside jumper and score near the rim.
“Sometimes I think he settles a little bit, but we want the basketball in his hands,” Bryant said. “We probably don’t get it to him enough sometimes, but when he’s making plays we’re such a better team. If he keeps attacking he’s a hard kid to guard.”
Central and Deshler the latter ranked 4th in the state 4A poll are the favorites to make the area final and advance to a sub regional game. They split two meetings this year, both within five points.
But their area crosses over with Area 10, so the runner up out of Area 16 will likely have to visit No. 1 ranked Cordova.
“Yeah it is an added incentive,” Bryant said. “But you know they all come down to one game scenarios other than the area championship, so we just want to get better and try to win the thing but get better as a team in the next two days.”
Said Barnett: “Not really thinking about it, not focused on anybody else. Robinson just about always gives the Tigers a strong peformance, while Kevon Summerhill, Alontae Nalls and Avery Sears are capable of big games, too. Sawyer Wright has showed improvement in the post.
Rogers’ top players include Cade Meyer and Harris Anerton. Wilson, featuring Hunter Rhodes, Jay Liles and Koby Flippo,
is an underdog but shot well in an upset of Mars Hill in the county tournament.
“Playing here will be different for us,” Bryant said. “Maybe we’re the top dog right now instead of going in as the underdog, and it’s a big rival game with Wilson right off the bat, so that’s why you line up and play the game.”
Third ranked Muscle Shoals will host Class 6A Area 16. The Trojans, led by guard Mark Sears, forward Mikey McIntosh and a deep roster of solid players, are possibly the hottest team in the Shoals right now. They’re better than Athens, but Athens is no pushover. A solid Florence team will have a big challenge preserving its season against seventh ranked Hazel Green.
Despite its loss Friday, at 27 1 Brooks is undoubtedly the team to beat in Class 5A Area 16. But the host Lions, ranked fifth in 5A, might get a push Tuesday from a Russellville team that’s probably better than its sub .500 record suggests.
Haleyville and Hamilton meet in a semifinal game Tuesday night at Fayette County in Area 11, with the winner clinching to a sub regional game against West Limestone, Priceville or Danville.
In Class 3A, sixth ranked Lauderdale County hosts the Area 16 tournament and looks to return to the Northwest Regional. The Tigers and Colbert Heights are favorites to beat Colbert County and Lexington, respectively, and advance to a sub regional game.
In 2A, ninth ranked Mars Hill hosts the Area 16 tourney and opens against rebuilding Sheffield, while Hatton draws tenth ranked Tanner. Mars Hill nearly pulled a season saving upset over Tanner last year, but this year they can’t meet until the finals and a Panthers win would be no upset.
Phil Campbell opens the Area 14 tourney Tuesday night against host Sulligent, while the preceding game features Red Bay against Lamar County.
Eighth ranked Belgreen is a big favorite to win the 1A Area 13 tournament it’s hosting. Mason Bragwell,
Brant Bragwell and Eli Hiser are among the leaders for a Bulldog team looking to get back to the Northwest Regional.