The setup for the varsity boys’ Class 5A, Area 15 contest between Arab and Guntersville Tuesday night couldn’t have been better for the home team.
The game, which had implications for the upcoming Marshall County Tournament as well as the area race, followed four solid Arab wins leading into the game, including a banner night for Judson-bound Tristen White in the girls varsity game.
But for whatever reason, Arab’s varsity boys team never really cranked up. Arab lost big to the 10th-ranked Wildcats for the second time this year and saw its nine-game win streak come to a screeching halt.
• VARSITY BOYS
Guntersville 59, Arab 42
When the Wildcats defeated the Knights 57-37 earlier this season, most people thought things might be a little different when Arab played on its home court with a healthy Colby King. That thought only grew as the Knights were clicking on all cylinders in practically every phase of the game, even through the holidays.
Instead, before a near-capacity crowd, a couple of early off-the-mark shots set the tone and a balanced Guntersville team silenced the home crowd pretty quickly. The Wildcats went home with a 17-point road win.
“They’re a tough matchup for us and they’re a really good team,” said coach Justin Jonus, who thought the Knights had a great opportunity. “They played a zone, which I was very happy with. I thought that was what we needed and dadgumit if our guys didn’t just freeze up.”
Particularly disappointed with the Knights’ inside game, there were not too many positives to point to regardless of who was on the floor.
“When our big guys don’t play well, we’re not going to beat a team like that,” Jonus said. “But basically, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong for us. Everybody had a bad game.
“Trevor (Miller) had a good second half but it was too late.”
Miller had 11 points, including nine on 3-of-3 shooting from 3-point range in the second half. Brooks Malone had nine points, James Ed Johnson eight and King seven. The Knights actually made six 3’s but made only 2 of 5 free throws for the game and trailed at halftime 27-13.
“When you score 13 points in a half you’re not going to win any game, I don’t care who you’re playing,” Jonus said. “We just didn’t show up.”
Needless to say, the Wildcats have had the Knights’ number this year.
“Give credit to Guntersville’s players,” Jonus said. “They shot it well and finished well and we did the opposite.”
Jonus was hoping his team got its “bad game” of the season out of the way prior to last night’s area game at Scottsboro.
Arab, 13-6 overall, is 3-2 in the area, compared to Guntersville (12-4, 5-0). Going into Friday, Scottsboro was 11-10 overall and 1-3 in the area, while Brewer was 7-12, 0-4.
• VARSITY GIRLS
Arab 52, Guntersville 34
Somewhat of the surprise on the night came from the Lady Knights and Tristen White, who scored 24 points. After falling to Guntersville earlier this season by a score of 56-40, Arab got a quick 17-6 first-quarter lead that propelled them to their second win in a row.
The Lady Wildcats cut the lead to two at the end of the third quarter, but the Knights picked things back up in the final quarter with excellent free throw shooting to expand the lead again.
“We did a great job in the first half getting out, running through the sets and getting good looks at the basket,” said coach Jessica Thompson. “We got a little complacent in the third quarter and let them back in it, but we’re finally starting to play with some confidence so I hope things keep rolling.”
Arab made 18 of 20 free throws, with 17 of 18 of those coming in the fourth quarter. Sometimes it just helps for someone to have a hot hand, too, and that belonged to White, who made four 3-pointers and was 6 of 6 from the free throw line. A bit tired in the second half, White had flu-like symptoms the night before but even after an 11-point first quarter, she continued to contribute the entire game.
She didn’t think being sick served as a lucky charm, though.
“No, I hope that doesn’t happen the night before a game again,” she said.
Being able to see may have been a bigger factor.
“I got new contacts today,” she said. “They really help.”
White was also happy to get a letter confirming that she had been approved for a full scholarship to play basketball at Judson College. Nothing’s been signed yet, but it likely will happen this spring.
• JV GIRLS
Arab 49, Guntersville 33
Leading 25-20 at the half, the Lady Knights outscored the Wildcats 14-5 in the third quarter. Kate Collins had a big night with 13 points, followed by Sydney Ferguson with 11 points. Kaely Hill added 10 and Laney Kelley had eight.
“We started off slow in the first half but after a little adjustment at halftime we came out strong in the second half,” said coach Chase Weaver, who was excited to see more players contribute offensively.
“I’m very proud of Kaely. I’ve been telling her all year she needed to score for me and tonight she did,” he said.
• JV BOYS
Arab 63, Guntersville 33
The JV team’s 19th win in a row didn’t come quite as easily as the score would indicate, but the calvary checked in to save the day.
“Guntersville played us well early and things were tight in the first quarter,” said coach Brad Kitchens.
Arab led 11-8 after a quarter.
“Our starters struggled a little bit but our second five came in and gave us a lift in the second quarter,” Kitchens said.
John Wesson Johnson led the Knights with 10 points, followed by Kolby Conley with nine. Alex Alcala and Will Cavender each had eight points and Ethan Thomas had seven. Jaxon Borden and Clayton Miller had six points each.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a team that was quite as deep as this one with as many contributing players,” Kitchens said. “Alex is really coming on for us, Kolby played very hard, and Jaxon, Clayton, Ethan, Tre Wilks, and Andrew Byars all did a fine job for us.
“But our starters did well the rest of the game, too. It’s just a pleasure to coach a team that has as many contributing factors as this team has.”
• 9TH GRADE BOYS
Arab 49, Guntersville 27
The Knights jumped out to a 16-3 lead at the end of the first quarter and played steady for the remainder of the game to pick up their 11th win in a row. Dakota NeSmith led the Knights with 15 points, Spencer Strickland had 13 points, Hayden O’Reilly had six and John Ray Wilks five.
“We have guys who consistently step up and we have plenty of contributors offensively and defensively,” said coach Jonathan Embry.
But, the coach still emphasized there’s always work to be done.
“I just challenged them that Guntersville is a rivalry game and we have to bring our best. It doesn’t matter how many we’ve won in a row or if they haven’t won many.
“I was just proud of the guys for taking the initiative to get an early lead and finish it out,” he said.