Arab’s somewhat new high-octane look with a lot of man-to-man pressure, often full court, was an early success as the Knights pulled out to a 33-19 halftime lead against Madison Academy in the first round of the Scottsboro Christmas Tournament on Monday.
But, the Mustangs were playing a similar game and once they got hot, things changed down the stretch.
Arab led 59-51 at the end of three before losing the lead, and the game, in the final quarter. The final was Madison Academy 91, Arab 82.
“The only thing that really hurt us was bad fouls,” said coach Justin Jonus. “We fouled a 3-point shooter, another underneath and one on a rebound. That cost us seven points right there.”
There was also the less-Wes factor. Tenacious on defense, John Wesson Johnson left the game with five fouls with just over three minutes to play. Arab’s line-up was shuffled up a bit also with John Brady Bowman out and JV players Tre Wilks and Aeron Mitchell moved up.
As far as effort was concerned, though, there was certainly no drop off. All things considered, Jonus left the game quite pleased.
“Anyone who watched that game would not say that team has been off a month, practiced six times and dropped over 80 points off a system they’ve never been taught,” Jonus said. “It’s brand new but we’ve not practiced anything long enough to be good at it yet.
“But I looked at this thing and we’ve got a lot of guys that can go. That Madison Academy team barely lost to Hartselle that’s number one in 6A, so that’s a good team.
“With some practice, I think we’re going to be OK.”
James Ed Johnson almost methodically racked up 27 points for Arab. Darian Lusk had 17.
Fyffe 74, Arab 65
The state’s third-ranked 3A team showed its was for real in the Tuesday game at Scottsboro, but Jonus still found plenty of positives from a team trying to embrace a new system.
For one, Arab missed eight free throws and nine layups in the first half and were 13-of-26 from the line for the night. But, after finding themselves down 23 in the second half, Arab cut the lead to eight near the end before falling by nine.
“I don’t care if they’re subs or not, for our kids to play like that says to me that we’re one step closer,” said Jonus. “A lot of kids give up. They stop, but my guys didn’t.”
Ed Johnson and Lusk had 15 points each for the Knights. Spencer Strickland had nine and Kolby Conley seven.
It was Conley’s first time back on the court after being sick.
“Kolby, Jaxon Borden and Spencer Strickland all gave us a lot of energy off the bench tonight and we’ve got to have that,” said Jonus.
The coach said he knew installing a “full-court game” at this stage of the season might equate to a few losses now, but he’s hoping it will mean bigger wins later.
“We’ve got a lot of pieces to fit in right now, but we hope to do that and get everyone back in time for area play,” he said.
Fyffe’s Brody Dalton, a 6-foot-4, 239-pound tight end commitment to the UAB football team, had 22 points.
The Knights were scheduled to face Cleveland Wednesday in their final game of the tournament.
• JUNIOR VARSITY
Arab 57, Alabama School of Cybertechnology & Engineering 17
Also playing in the Scottsboro tournament, Arab JV coach Brad Kitchens breathed a sigh of relief Monday after his team’s performance against an outmatched team trying to get a program started.
“It’s been 38 days since we’ve had a game and we were shut down totally for three straight weeks, so I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said Kitchens.
But, he knew the Knights certainly weren’t going to be at their best.
“We had some cobwebs out there, especially the first half. I know the score looks one way, but we just didn’t play well in the first half,” he said.
“But, I thought we shook the cobwebs off and played with much more intensity in the second half.”
The JV Knights also had some different players on the floor with limited practice time.
“I thought we played well together really,” said Kitchens. “We’ve only had a couple of days practice with the guys who played tonight, but Ryan King and Austin Dyson off the ninth grade team blended right in with us.”
Caleb Perkins led the Knights in scoring with 15 points. Case Couch had 12 and Clayton Miller eight.
Plainview 62, Arab 58
The Knights came up short on Tuesday.
“Plainview is a really good team,” Kitchens said.
Arab kept it close early but the Bears went on a run just before the half that proved costly.
“We had a couple of breakdowns with their press and turned the ball over three times in a row. Then, we got in a hurry ourselves and didn’t execute like we should,” Kitchens said.
“We just weren’t patient when we needed to be.”
Still, the Knights stayed in the hunt and came very close to tying the game late with a 3-pointer that just missed before the Bears connected on a free throw to ice the game.
Ethan Thomas had a big night with 23 points. Couch had 12, Owen Thomas nine and Perkins eight.
The JV boys were scheduled to play Decatur Heritage on Wednesday.
• 9TH GRADE BOYS
North Jackson 43, Arab 35
The Knights trailed from the tip and never could get control of the game at Scottsboro on Monday. Arab did pull to within six in the fourth quarter, only to see the Chiefs make their free throws.
“They hit their free throws at the end and we were 3-of-18. That was the big difference,” said coach Jonathan Embry. “We were struggling, no question about it. The limited playing and practice time is hurting us right now.”
Austin Dyson finished with 13 points for Arab. Dylan Benefield and Jack Bishop had five each.
Scottsboro 64, Arab 23
Twice quarantined, Arab’s limited time on the court continued to reveal itself but the biggest problem the Knights faced was their opponent. With very successful junior high teams the last two years, the Wildcats have carried that success to high school.
“That was probably the best team we’ll face this year,” Embry said.
The Knights kept it close for a quarter and were down only four points before being outscored 25-6 in the second period. Bishop had eight points for the Knights, Benefield had six and Dyson had four. The freshmen were scheduled to face Buckhorn on Wednesday.