Tigers shock Athens for Area 15 title
Nick Johnston, Hartselle Enquirer
ATHENS – Johnny Berry was asked to sum up his team's performance with one word.
"Toughness," the head coach said. "We were really tough (Tuesday) night."
Berry and his Hartselle Tigers shocked Class 5A by beating host Athens 60-56 in the Class 5A, Area 15 Tournament Championship Game.
Hartselle had fallen to Athens twice before this season.
"We come out and didn't want to be down big at halftime," Berry said. In the team's previous two meetings, Hartselle found itself in a deep hole at halftime. "We had good gameplans against them (Athens) earlier this year, but we didn't execute in the first half and got behind. Then, we had to scrap the gameplan and play catch up."
Tournament Most Valuable Player Marlon Chapman scored a team-high 20 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter alone.
"This is just a great feeling for us," Berry said. "It's a big team win"
Not all went well during the entire game for Berry and his Tigers, though Hartselle did lead 16-14 at the end of the first quarter.
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Sophomore sensation Richard Hendrix had 11 of those 16 points and 20 points at halftime, as Athens led 28-25 at the break.
"He's one heck of a player," Berry said of the 6-8 Hendrix. "We could be all over him and he would still catch the ball down low."
Hendrix ended the night with 33 points.
Athens took a 34-25 lead with 6:02 remaining in the third quarter when Rod Doss elevated for a two-handed slam.
Then, Zac Ward took control.
"I realized I needed to step up for my team," the Hartselle guard said. "I was ready to go in the second half."
Ward scored 11 of his 19 points in the third quarter and his three pointer with 1:33 remaining in the stanza cut Athens' lead to just three.
Gary Speegle gave Hartselle the lead for good with 6:08 remaining in the game. His layup made the score 45-44.
In the fourth quarter, the Tigers hit 7 of 8 free throws to seal the game.
"This is the best feeling in the world," Ward said, who also made the All-Area Tournament Team. "We really come together tonight and worked hard as a team."
Hartselle improved its record to 21-11 with the win. The Tigers now host an athletic, physical team, according to Berry, in Russellville. Tipoff for the Class 5A Sub-region game is set for 7 p.m. in the Pettey Center Friday night.
Hartselle 61, Cullman 49
Marlon Chapman proved to be a thorn in Cullman's side.
Not only did the senior score 22 points and pull down 10 rebounds, he neutralized the Bearcats' leading scorer.
The Hartselle Tigers moved on to the Area 15 Championship by defeating Cullman 61-49 Saturday night in Athens.
Chapman may have said it best.
"It was a do or die game," he said. "We're not ready to die."
Chapman locked down on Cullman's Justin Hollingsworth, allowing him just eight points. Hollingsworth scored 34 earlier this season against Hartselle.
"The last two times we've played Cullman he's (Chapman) played well," head coach Johnny Berry said. "He's so good at driving the ball, twisting and contorting his body and hitting tough shots. He's a playmaker."
Chapman scored just six points in the first half but led the Tigers in the third quarter 10 points. He helped Hartselle out to a 40-25 lead at one point.
Cullman rallied, though, ending the third quarter on a 9-2 run to pull within eight.
Cullman's Tyler Powell quickly made it a five-point game by hitting a three pointer to start the final stanza, but the Bearcats could get no closer.
Jason Crowe added 15 points from the point guard position for the Tigers, while Zac Ward scored eight points and had six rebounds.