Final Four bound
Ward propels Tigers to Birmingham with three-point bombs against Gardendale, team will play West End
Nick Johnston, Hartselle Enquirer
HANCEVILLE – It was a familiar sight.
Hartselle falls behind big. One of Hartselle's seniors steps up. Hartselle wins the game.
Last Friday morning at Wallace State-Hanceville, Hartselle won the Northwest Regional Championship by defeating Gardendale 61-53 in overtime.
Winning … also a familiar sight.
According to head coach Johnny Berry, he never lost confidence in his team even when the Tigers fell behind by nine points in the second half.
A senior named Zac Ward.
Ward hit six three pointers in the second half of Friday's game, including one that tied up the contest at 47-all with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
Not bad for a guy who struggled to just eight points in the first half with no three-point baskets.
"I was 0 for 6 in the first half, but my teammates told me to keep shooting," Ward said, who ended the day with 30 points. "It worked out for us."
Now, Hartselle will take on West End-Birmingham in the Final Four at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday.
"It was just another day at the office," a slightly reserved Berry said following the Gardendale game.
Days at the office lately mean a come-from-behind win.
Against Athens in the Class 5A, Area 15 Championship Game, the Tigers trailed by nine in the third quarter, only to rally behind Ward and Marlon Chapman for an upset.
Then, in a Class 5A, Sub-state game, Hartselle fell behind 48-37 to Russellville with just over three minutes remaining. A quick 12-0 run by the Tigers, and two overtimes later, Hartselle found itself in the Northwest Regionals.
After handling G.W. Carver with little trouble, Hartselle fell behind by nine to Gardendale. Only to come back for another win.
After falling behind 30-21 at the 5:50 mark of the third quarter, Ward hit his first three pointer. Then Chapman hit a layup.
After a Gardendale basket, Ward hit two consecutive treys to tie the contest at 32-all.
Ward scored 14 points in the third quarter, as Gardendale held a 38-37 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Hartselle trailed 47-44 with 1:50 remaining when Chapman found Ward in the corner for another three pointer, which proved to send the game into overtime.
In the extra session, Hartselle hit 10 of 12 free throws and never trailed. Jason Crowe entered off the bench to hit all six of his free throws, while Chapman added the other four.
Gary Speegle hit what proved to be the game-clinching layup with :41 remaining.
"They don't give up," Berry said of his team with nine seniors. "They continue to believe, and they've had that mentality all year long."