By Matthew Martin/Messenger Correspondent
Hokes Bluff’s Isaac Haas has accomplished a lot as a high school basketball player.
The senior center wants to add one more thing to his resume – an Etowah County High School Basketball Tournament champion.
Thanks to his play, Haas and his Eagle teammates will get a chance to do just that on Friday.
Haas scored 16 points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked nine shots as he led Class 4A, No. 5 Hokes Bluff past top-seeded Southside, 49-44, on Wednesday (Jan. 15) in the Etowah County High School Basketball Tournament semifinals.
A standing-room-only crowd filled Gadsden State’s Beck Field House to overflowing as the Eagles and Panthers faced off in a rematch of last year’s county championship game.
Southside (14-3) won last year’s game, but Haas said he and his teammates had a mindset and a plan to keep that from happening on Wednesday.
“I owe it all to my teammates,” Haas said. “I tried to just stand, straight up, because I knew they (Southside players) would drive into me. We just played our game. They are a great team, but I took great satisfaction in beating them and getting to the championship game.”
The Eagles have more depth this season and is getting back to full strength following some early-season injuries. Junior guard David Franklin returned to the starting lineup after injuring his elbow earlier in the year.
The depth played a key role against Southside.
Haas left the game in the second quarter after picking up his second foul. The Eagles led 17-10 after the first quarter, and was leading at the time Haas went to the bench. But Hokes Bluff’s bench would not let the Panthers take advantage, as Southside barely led at the half at 21-19.
Haas was whistled for his third foul just 20 seconds into the second half, but again, Southside was not able to take control of the game with the Purdue University signee on the bench.
“When we subbed, the two posts had great minutes,” Hokes Bluff coach Greg Watkins said about when Haas had to go to the bench. “We’ve got a little deeper bench, so it’s not as big of a deal. The bench was huge for us tonight.”
The Panthers eventually led 32-31 heading into the fourth quarter. Haas then sparked the Eagles, as Hokes Bluff (18-5) scored the first five points of the final quarter.
During the fourth quarter, Southside was whistled for foul after foul on Haas. Though he hit just 50 percent of his free throws (4-of-8), it was enough to keep Hokes Bluff in the lead.
When Brack Shields hit a big 3-pointer with 1:32 left in the game, the Eagles had a 43-25 lead and the celebration began among the team and its fans.
“We felt good at halftime,” Watkins said. “We’ve been in this situation before. We play in an extremely tough area, so we’ve been in that spot before. They are able to handle adversity.”
Kaden Moore added 11 points for Hokes Bluff, while Shields scored nine points, grabbed eight rebounds and had four assists.
For Southside, Hunter Bellew scored a team-high 15 points. Drew Mullinax scored 12 points and Saige Benson scored eight.
Hokes Bluff will face the winner of the other semifinal in the county championship game featuring second-seeded Sardis against Gaston.