By Stan Veitch/Sports Correspondent
As they sat down at the table for postgame interviews following the Titans’ 56-54 win over Mountain Brook in the Northeast Regional Tournament semifinals, Gadsden City High coach Reginald Huff told Shond Kidd-McKinney, “You finally got warmed up.”
To which Kidd-McKinney replied, “It was all in the shoes.”
McKinney went on to explain that he was wearing the wrong shoes in the first half but got to change into his favorites at halftime.
To wit, Kidd-McKinney finished with 16 point, three assists and three steals. At halftime, he had only five points, one assist and one steal.
“I knew I had to step up and I felt it in me,” Kidd-McKinney said. “I knew that coach believed in me.”
With the score tied at 54-54 and just over a minute left in, Gadsden City (25-7) inbounded under the Spartans (24-8) basket and took the ball slowly upcourt, milking the clock as the Titans are prone to do in the final minute of a half.
The ball finally got to Kidd-McKinney, who drove the lane and scored with 01.3 remaining.
“Shond is our best 1-on-1 guard because he’s so physical,” Huff said. “He just did what he does best.”
Kidd-McKinney admitted that the shot felt good as soon as it left his hand. He, along with the Gadsden City student section, was a bit early to celebrate, though.
Mountain Brook had one last shot but had to drive the length of the court in :01.3. A Hail Mary shot fell far short, setting off another celebration.
After forging a 16-16 tie at the end of one quarter, the Spartans took a 32-24 lead into the locker room.
Kalin Johnson and company were having none of that, however, as Johnson hit three consecutive 3-pointers at the start of the third quarter to get GCHS within 36-35 when Johnson’s third 3 found net. He finished with a game-high 26 points, hitting 4-of-11 from beyond the arc.
“We knew we had to catch up, and I thank coach for trusting me to shoot,” Johnson said. “He told me that if I had a shot, to take it.”
After that, neither team was able to take an appreciable advantage.
“Earlier this week, I told some folks that I felt like the winner of this game had to be the favorite to win state,” Mountain Brook coach Bucky McMillan said. “That’s not just bragging on us but bragging on (Gadsden City), too. I think now that they have a good shot at state.”
Six-foot-seven inch freshman Trendon Watford led the Spartans with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Jack Kline finished with 15 points.
Gadsden City plays Spain Park on Tuesday (Feb. 23) at 10:45 a.m. for the right to represent the Northeast in the state tournament in Birmingham.