Photo: Gadsden City’s Tenise Johnson (0) splits the Oak Mountain’s defense for a basket during the Lady Titans’ 47-38 victory over Oak Mountain in the Class 7A Northeast Regional Tournament basketball semifinals on Thursday (Feb. 13) at JSU. (Courtesy of Gary Wells)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Gadsden City weathered a late Oak Mountain rally to post a 47-38 victory in the Class 7A Northeast Regional Tournament basketball semifinals on Thursday (Feb. 13) at Jacksonville State University.
It looked like the Lady Titans (26-5) would cruise into the tournament finals after Tameah Gaddis’ basket at the 6:22 mark of the fourth quarter gave GCHS a 41-25 lead. But Oak Mountain (10-18) responded to Gaddis’ score with a 10-0 run that drew the Lady Eagles within six points with 2:38 on the clock.
That turned out to be the highwater mark for the Birmingham squad.
While the Gadsden City defense held Oak Mountain scoreless until the final seconds, Camille Jenkins’ steal and resulting layup provided Gadsden City with an eight-point cushion with just under two minutes remaining.
Gaddis banked in a jump shot at the 1:15 mark to restore the Lady Titans’ double-digit lead and forced the Lady Eagles to start fouling to regain possession. The Oak Mountain shooters failed to find their mark down the stretch, and a pair of free throws by Jenkins with 10 seconds to go sealed Gadsden City’s first berth in the regional finals in several years.
GCHS head coach Jeremy Brooks shared what he told his team during a timeout he called following the late Oak Mountain run.
“It’s hard to get your team to play fast and get after it and then know when to let off the gas at certain times near the end of the game,” said GCHS head coach Jeremy Brooks. “It’s a gray area, and we talked to the girls about playing fast with opportunity. Offensively, we just tried to get a feel for what would work best and then be patient. If you play fast, you’ve got to know when to take a shot and when not to.”
Brooks was pleased with the Lady Titans’ defensive effort, which limited Oak Mountain to 30.6 percent shooting (15-for-49) from the field.
“We really did the best that we could do,” he said.
Gadsden City finished with the advantage in rebounds (41 to 38), points in the paint (20 to 8), points off turnovers (12 to 7 and points off fast breaks (12 to 0).
Jenkins paced GCHS with 14 points, followed by Adrianna Jones with nine, Gaddis with seven and Somara But-cher with six. Gaddis pulled down 14 rebounds, while Jones dished out five assists. Johnson had three blocks and Auburn Dupree had three steals.
Respective 3-point baskets by Jones and Johnson and a layup from Cianni Rhodes staked GCHS to an early 8-0 lead before the six straight points by Edwards drew the Lady Eagles within two points at the start of the second quarter.
Oak Mountain closed within 12-8 midway through the second period, but Jones’ bucket at 5:27 and a three-pointer by Jenkins with 50 seconds left in the half bookended a 10-0 GCHS run and helped the Lady Titans enter the locker room ahead 22-14.
Oak Mountain gradually chipped away during the early stages of the third quarter, drawing within 28-22 at the halfway mark. But consecutive 3-point baskets from Butcher and a pair of foul shots by Ajainay Tinker pushed the Gadsden City lead to 36-22 after 24 minutes.
Johnson knocked down a 3-pointer 15 seconds into the fourth period, and Gaddis’ basket a minute later made it 41-25 in favor of GCHS. The Lady Eagles eventually stormed back within six points, but Gadsden City was able to survive and advance to the tournament finals against Hoover on Tuesday (Feb. 18) at 9 a.m.
For Oak Mountain, Hannah Edwards finsihed with 16 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to come down here for a good while as a coach,” said Brooks. “But when you’re a player, you only have a small window of opportunity [to qualify for the regional tournament]. I think we came here nine times out of the first 11 years (since the program began in 2006), and you get used to going. The last two years of not making it here was the longest drought we’ve had, and you don’t want a class to leave and not get to experience this environment. I’ve been to other ones, and to me, this is the best regional tournament around.”