By Chris McCarthy/Editor
After opening full throttle on Tuesday (Dec. 8), Gadsden City High downshifted a bit too much against Grissom.
A 16-point GCHS lead in the third quarter was whittled down to five with three minutes to go, providing the Tigers a chance to hand the Titans their first Class 7A, Area 7 loss.
But Gadsden City (8-2, 2-0) put the brakes on the Grissom rally, sinking 9-of-13 free throw attempts down the stretch for a 68-58 victory at GCHS.
Kalin Johnson led the Titans with 22 points. Jacob Hyde and Denzel Mooney each had a double-double, with the former finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds and the latter contributing 10 points and 13 boards. Deonte Jones chipped in 10 points, while Darnell Mooney handed out 10 assists.
Although pleased with the win, GCHS head coach Reginald Huff had concerns about his squad’s failure to put away the Huntsville squad in the early going. After Denzel Mooney scored 10 points of a game-opening 19-2 GCHS run, the Titans were outscored 10 to 9 in the second period. Johnson’s three-point basket at 1:35 made it 30-15, but Grissom scored the final three points of the first half to draw within 30-18.
“We came out with a man-to-man [defense] and pressured [Grissom] really well, and I think that had an effect on them, but we kind of went into a lull in the second quarter and let them back in the game,” said Huff. “Once you give a good team like Grissom life, they’ll continue to fight, and that’s what happened. We had a chance to take away that chance early on but we couldn’t do it.”
The Titans responded early in the third quarter when respective treys from Johnson and Hyde pushed the GCHS lead to 38-22. The hosts did not score again from the field for the rest of the period, however, and the Tigers took advantage with a 14-1 stretch that brought them within 42-36 entering the final eight minutes.
“We got out of what we were doing, and a lot of it was because of [Grissom’s] ball playing skills,” said Huff. “They’ve got a high basketball IQ and made some great adjustments at halftime.”
Gadsden City got back to double digits for much of the fourth quarter before Jordan Rodriguez’s basket with 3:05 remaining trimmed the lead to 52-47. But Grissom got no closer, and the Titans used the bonus free throw situation late in the contest to hold off their area rivals.
Jordan Rambus paced the Tigers with 19 points, while Rodriguez added 15.
“We have to work on not having unforced turnovers and making our free throws,” said Huff. “When we get to playing fast, sometimes we get comfortable with a lead and we relax. We need to work on eliminating that.”