Not ready to die
Hartselle's season still alive after two more wins; team now in Elite 8
Nick Johnston, Hartselle Enquirer
HANCEVILLE – The Hartselle Tigers will not quit.
Nor should they.
After an emotional 66-65 win over Russellville in a Class 5A, Sub-state contest last Friday, the Tigers (22-10) beat G.W. Carver 60-49 in the first round of the Northwest Regional at Wallace State-Hanceville.
Now, Hartselle is in the Elite 8 at Wallace State-Hanceville with a chance to reach the Final Four in Birmingham.
Friday morning at 10:45, the Tigers will take on Gardendale, who upset Athens in the first round of the Regionals.
"Everybody's confidence seems up," head coach Johnny Berry said after Tuesday's win over G.W. Carver. "This is phase two for us."
G.W. Carver 49
Hartselle trailed only once en route to the Sweet 16 win.
The Tigers shot 44 percent for the game, but Berry was none too happy with his offensive production.
"Defensively we're playing our best, but offensively we're not," he said. Hartselle held G.W. Carver to just 29 percent shooting. "We felt if we could limit our turnovers, we had a good chance. They were a very quick team and we made some mistakes in the first half, but we were able to make better passes in the second half."
Hartselle jumped out to a 12-7 lead by the end of the first quarter due in part to Gary Speegle. The senior center scored five of his nine points in the first quarter and did not miss a shot the entire game, connecting on all four of his attempts.
Production off the bench from Keith Rodgers kept the Tigers ahead of G.W. Carver (19-10).
Rodgers' two consecutive buckets gave Hartselle a 16-12 lead, but the Rams were able to knot the contest at 20-all by halftime.
Marlon Chapman's layup and Tyler Reeves' three pointer gave Hartselle a quick five-point lead early in the second half, as the Tigers' defense stiffened. Hartselle did not allow a Ram field goal until 2:36 remaining in the third quarter.
The Tigers left little doubt in the fourth quarter, hitting 9 of 11 shots taken in the period. Reeves scored eight of his 13 points in the quarter, as Hartselle held off a Rams rally late in the stanza.
With the win, Hartselle has been on the winning end in 15 of its last 19 games.
Zac Ward, who scored a game-high 17 points for the Tigers, said it was easy to find the turning point of the season.
"After we lost in the Hoover Tournament (against Pleasant Grove), we had a sitdown and talked," Ward said.
The Tigers were 8-7 at the time. Ward said the team "laid it all out" and believed that was when Hartselle "came together as a team."
"We knew it was time for a change," Marlon Chapman said. "We laid it all out there and since then, like coach said, we've won 15 out of 19."
Chapman scored 10 points and pulled six rebounds against the Rams.
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Adam Cryer had five points, Rodgers finished with four, and Brett Byford rounded out the scoring with two points.
Head coach Johnny Berry breathed a sigh of relief and summed up the entire game with one sentence.
"We probably should have taken up money as people left," he said.
Berry and his Hartselle Tigers beat Russellville 66-65 in double overtime last Friday night, giving the red and white a chance to go to Wallace State-Hanceville.
"That was as good of a game as I've ever seen," Berry said. "For them to come into our gym, lead in the fourth quarter and in overtime, and us still hang on and win the Sub-state championship is tremendous."
Fans rushed the floor following the game, as most had forgotten the Tigers had trailed by 11 during the fourth quarter.
Hartselle appeared to be the stronger team early, jumping out to a 13-2 lead. By midway through the second quarter, however, Russellville took the lead and held on for a 27-24 advantage at halftime.
Hartselle trailed 35-34 by the end of the third quarter and actually held the lead at 37-35 with 6:20 remaining in the game. However, Russellville went on a 13-0 run, lasting 3:07. When Reggie Hubbard's jumper fell through the net with 3:13 remaining in the contest, Russellville led 48-37.
Just four seconds later, the entire game change.
Zac Ward rushed down the floor and popped a three pointer to breathe life back into the Tigers, then Marlon Chapman hit a layup, cutting the Tigers' deficit to 48-42. Hartselle then forced three consecutive turnovers, which led to seven points, giving Hartselle a one-point edge at 49-48.
"I was telling our kids 'don't quit, don't quit, don't quit,'" Berry said. "And they didn't."
A Russellville free throw with 1:20 remaining in regulation tied the game at 49-all.
In overtime, Chapman hit a layup with :40 remaining, giving Hartselle a 53-51 lead. Russellville's Jeremy Freeman quickly silenced the Hartselle crowd with a three pointer just :07 later.
Ward drew a foul with :25 remaining in overtime and hit one of two free throws to force a second overtime.
In the second overtime, Chapman scored eight of his 26 points, but still, the Tigers could not run away from Russellville.
Hartselle led 64-61 when Russellville's Bobby Winston hit a layup and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but Kirby Allen was able to get the rebound and draw another foul. His two free throws gave Russellville a 65-64 lead.
Again, Ward called his own number and was fouled with just :07 remaining. He hit both free throws to give the Tigers a 66-65 lead and the win.
The two free throws gave Ward 25 points on the night.