By the time you read this, whether or not Arab would be headed back to the Northeast Regional Tournament at Jacksonville State will have been determined.
The Knights traveled to Crossville last night to take on the surprising 5A, Area 13 champion Lions in subregional play to determine whose season would continue. Crossville was 0-6 in the area before defeating Boaz in the area tournament last Tuesday and disposing of Douglas 60-54 in the championship game Friday for their second consecutive title.
The Lions were 12-12 going into the subregional with wins over the likes of Asbury, Geraldine, Ider and Gaston. While Arab has certainly played the more demanding schedule, Crossville just as certainly has had momentum on its side of late, winning six of its last seven.
An Arab win Tuesday would put the Knights in the Northeast Regional for the third time in a row, and back on WRAB-AM 1380 radio this Saturday, likely at 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. against either Center Point or Alexandria.
Arab’s nip-and-tuck overtime win over Scottsboro in the opening game of the Area 15 Tournament last Tuesday put the Knights into the subregional round and left their fans hungry for a championship, even if Arab would be facing Guntersville. The Wildcats had defeated the Knights by 20, 57-37, early in the season and by 17, 59-42, at Arab.
Friday, all the Wildcats did was drive the lane almost at will and make what appeared to be an amazing percentage of their shots, while Arab missed an amazing percentage of its shots.
The final was Guntersville 69-46, a win that gave the Wildcats a trophy, a 20-8 record and area champion status in the subregional round. They hosted Area 13 runner-up Douglas last night.
Guntersville’s William Leach hit five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points. Freshman Brandon Fussell had 15 and Jerrell Williamson had 12 in a balanced attack.
The Knights were down 16-8 after the first quarter and 31-15 at the half. While the Wildcats never got out of rhythm, the Knights couldn’t seem to find one, with the second quarter even worse than the first.
There was 4:44 left in the half before James Ed Johnson got Arab’s first points of the frame and 2:32 before Kent Tyler got another two. Trevor Miller connected on a 3 with 1:31 to go in the quarter and that was it.
Guntersville outscored the Knights 16-15 in the third when things clicked a little better, but there was no comeback to be had. Coach Justin Jonus’ clipboard smashed the floor on more than one occasion early in the game due to those missed shots, especially of the uncontested variety.
A normally productive inside game struggled as Brooks Malone had two points, Colby King had two and Blake Kelley was held scoreless.
“They make us play outside-in, meaning if we go inside they’ll surround you, forcing the 3,” said Jonus. “But we had several wide open shots to open the game, including layups, and we just needed to make them.
“We had our best shooters shooting, but it was an off night and they weren’t going down.”
Schemes didn’t seem to matter.
“We’re a good team but we’ve not played well one time against them,” Jonus said. “It’s not their defense, it’s just a matchup zone or a point zone. They give us easy shots but we’re not making them.”
The Wildcats also edged the Knights in free throws, making 10 of 14 while Arab connected on 10 of 18. Miller led the Knights with 11 points, Tyler had eight points, Johnson seven and Caleb Miller five.
Jonus said there are silver linings to everything.
“This tough time may mean something better for us later,” he said. “I told the players I’ll trade the area trophy for that region trophy any day.
“Those easy shots are going to go in when it matters most, and that’s what everybody dreams about.”
In Class 3A, Area 13 action Friday night at New Hope, the host team edged Holly Pond in girls play to claim the title. New Hope hosted Area 10 runner-up Carbon Hill on Monday, while Holly Pohnd played at Winfield..
The New Hope boys also advanced with an area title, defeating Vinemont 52-39. The Indians hosted Area 10 runner-up Oakman last night while Vinemont played at Area 10 winner Winfield.