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Hartselle Enquirer
Special to the Enquirer/ Kristi Duran Keondre Swoopes (#4) with a layup at the rim.

Tigers Season Comes To An End With Sub-Regional Loss To Columbia

By Russell Frye, For the Enquirer

Hartselle hosted a battle of Class 6A ranked teams as they faced off with No. 1 Columbia with a trip to Wallace and the Northwest Regional Tournament on the line.

A victory for the Tigers would give their first regional tournament appearance since 2003.

The Eagles came into the game with a glaring size advantage over the Tigers as they had two starters who were 6’9″ where Hartselle’s tallest player, Tad Sivley is 6’5″.

“Due to their size, we were going to have to make it a 32-minute block-out drill to have a chance,” said Hartselle Head Coach Faron Key.   “I told our team we didn’t have to win the rebound battle, just needed to keep it close or maybe even.”

Columbia used their size advantage early in the first quarter as they were able to pass over the top of the Hartselle 1-3-1 zone to get some easy inside baskets as they built an early 14-3 lead.

The Tigers got six points from senior Keondre Swoopes in the first quarter to help them pull within six points, 16-10 at the end of the first.

“My guys played outstanding after the first five minutes of the game,” said Key.  “We fell behind 16-6 and I thought much of that was due to their size inside and landing a couple of early three-pointers.”

Brody Peebles began to heat up in the second quarter as he scored 10 points to help cut the Eagles lead to just three at halftime, 27-24.

Hartselle stepped up their defensive pressure in the third quarter as they forced Columbia into multiple bad passes that led to easy baskets for the Tigers.

Peebles and Sivley combined for 16 points to help lead the Tigers to outscore the Eagles 21-15 to take a six-point lead, 45-42 lead into the fourth quarter.

Hartselle went cold to start the fourth quarter and the Eagles took advantage by outscoring the Tigers 12-3 to take a six-point lead at 54-48 with thirty seconds to go in the game.

“It felt as though our guys were trying to figure them out rather than just focus on what we do well and aggressively attack them in that early part of the 4th quarter,” said Key. “We had several shots in the paint that rolled around and wouldn’t go in for us.”

Following a Hartselle timeout, the Tigers inbounded the ball to Swoopes who drove the length of the court and passed to Peebles who slashed through the Eagles defense to hit a layup with twenty-seconds to go.

After Columbia made a full-court inbound pass for two, the Tigers once again trailed by six.

The Tigers pushed the ball up court as quickly as they could with a deep pass to Trent Wright who found Peebles for another three-pointer to cut the lead to three with four seconds to go.

Columbia had a chance to seal the victory following a Tiger foul by going to the free throw line. They missed to the first shot and the Tigers got the rebound. With time running out they quickly got the ball to mid-court but missed the game-tying shot.

“We had a chance to win due to our defense, toughness, intelligence, and togetherness,” said Key.

Geraldo Lane and Gervaughn Abram each scored 14 points to lead Columbia (19-9) while Jamiah Holloway added 12.

The Eagles out-rebounded Hartselle 31-23 and outscored the Tigers in the paint 36-16. Both were important differences in the final score.

The Tigers were once again led by Peebles who scored a game-high 29 points. Swoopes finishes his Hartselle career scoring nine points while Sivley added eight.

Hartselle finishes the season at 22-8, which is their highest win total since the 2003 season.

Five of their losses were to teams ranked in the Top 10 in 7A, two losses to teams ranked #1 and #6 in 6A and a loss to Helena, a team that will be playing in the Southwest Regional in Montgomery.

Nine Hartselle seniors, including starters Swoopes, Braxton Miller, and Will Stephenson, closed out their careers tonight and the Tiger faithful couldn’t be more proud of a group of young men.

The Tigers return Peebles, Sivley, and Wright to form the nucleus of next year’s team.

“This season was another step in the right direction for our program,” said Key. “I like where we are headed.”