Photo: Hokes Bluff’s Colby Smith (30) reaches for a loose ball as Glencoe’s Garrett Morgan (left) and Nolan Fairley give chase during Glencoe’s 63-61 victory in the Etowah County Schools Tournament championship game on January 20 at Glencoe. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
The Glencoe boys basketball team ended its six-year Etowah County Schools basketball championship drought in dramatic fashion on January 20.
With a 24-9 lead after one quarter, it looked as if Hokes Bluff was well on its way to a second straight county title.
Not so fast.
The Yellow Jackets (12-12) turned up the intensity on both ends of the court over the game’s final 24 minutes en route to a 63-61 victory.
After the Eagles went ahead 61-60 with 40 seconds left in the game on Landon Davenport’s basket, Glencoe ran down the clock to the final few seconds. The ball eventually arrived in the hands of Wade Segrest, who drove to the basket and converted a layup, being fouled in the process.
The sophomore guard converted the foul shot, and Hokes Bluff’s last-second shot attempt fell well short of the basket to give the Yellow jackets their first county title since 2017.
Glencoe head coach Ryan Chambless was proud of his team for going toe-to-toe with the defending champions after being down by 17 points early on.
“We tried a junk defense early on but scrapped it and just started doing what we do best,” he said. “We just got after it and made some shots and got back into [the game]. I can’t say enough about how hard all the kids played on defense, especially Cooper Horton and Jayden Patton. The biggest thing is that we just didn’t quit. We’ve played 7A teams and 6A teams and 5A teams this year, and we’ve probably been down in all of them at some point. We’ve won some of those games and come up short in some, but we just keep coming back.”
Aiden Cornutt paced the Yellow Jackets (12-12) with 24 points, followed by Segrest with 17 and Tournament MVP Patton with 11. Cornutt also had four rebounds and four steals, while Segrest cleared five boards.
Class 3A No. 7 Hokes Bluff (16-5) had Glencoe back on its heels in the early going, opening the game with a 15-4 run before taking a 24-9 lead into the second quarter. Colby Smith scored the first nine Eagle points and 11 of his 17 total points during the first eight minutes.
But the Yellow Jackets quickly got off the canvass. Following a basket from Jordan Presley at the start of the second period, Cornutt scored nine points of an 11-3 run that got the hosts back in the game. Five points from Patton in the final minute of the first half drew the Yellow Jackets within 33-27 at halftime.
“I think it started to get away from us in the second quarter,” said Hokes Bluff head coach Jason Presley. “[Glencoe] started playing their style of ball, which made us take some bad shots and resulted in [Glencoe] getting some easy baskets at the other end.”
Glencoe finished with a 16 to 2 advantage in transition points and an 25-11 edge in points off turnovers.
“We’re been doing a pretty good job all year of holding things together and keeping our poise,” said Jason Presley. “I thought we lost our poise tonight.”
Glencoe kept it up after halftime and the Eagle lead continued to shrink. Cornutt’s traditional three-point tied the game with less than three minutes to go in the third quarter, and Garrett Morgan’s basket at 2:40 gave the Yellow Jackets their first lead of the game at 45-43. Smith’s layup with a second remaining pulled Hokes Bluff within 50-47 after 24 minutes.
It was neck and neck down the stretch, as neither team leading by more than three points during the fourth quarter. Segrest’s big play in the closing seconds had the Yellow Jackets hoisting the first-place trophy in front of their home crowd.
Jordan Presley finished with 16 points for Eagles, followed by Davenport with 15. Anderson Morgan added six points. Smith grabbed eight rebounds, while Presley had seven boads and four assists.
Chambless hoped that the victory would give the program a much-needed shot in the arm.
“We really needed some wins around here, and these guys have really taken that on their shoulders,” he said. “We’re trying to bring a winning mentality to the program, and I think our guys are doing a great job of that. Hopefully, it will be contagious and spread to the entire school.”
Joining Patton on the All-Tournament team were Cornutt, Segrest and Andrew Greene from Glencoe; Presley, Smith and Davenport from Hokes Bluff; Eli Morton and Kason Moore from Sardis; Mica Merriman and Brock Bagley from Gaston; Thad Pearce from West End and Will Shirley from Southside.