Pickens County claims third straight championship
Thu. March 01, 2012 at 12:00 a.m. | By Andrew Carroll
Members of the Pickens County basketball team celebrate after receiving the Class 1A state championship trophy after beating Cedar Bluff in Birmingham on Thursday. (Photo by Michelle Lepianka Carter)
BIRMINGHAM | Pickens County and Cedar Bluff, finalists from a year ago, met Thursday in the AHSAA Class 1A final, and the result was the same without overtime.
Senior guards Warren Betts and De’Marko Hall each scored 10 points in the second half and Pickens County defeated the Tigers 70-59 to claim its third straight championship.
"I’m very proud of the guys," said Patrick Plott, who earned the first state title of his coaching career. "We said in the locker room if we came out and played good defense we’d have a chance to win the game. I think we forced 20-something turnovers, so defensively we played very well and got some easy baskets on the offensive end."
Pickens County finished with 15 steals. Cedar Bluff committed 25 turnovers.
Plott, Pickens County’s head football coach in 2008, returned last fall as head coach for football and basketball. Russ Wallace, who left to coach at Buckhorn, directed the Tornadoes to championships in 2010 and 2011.
Betts made three 3-pointers and led the Tornadoes with 19 points. He also had six steals and four assists and made the All-Tournament team.
Hall, the most valuable player, had 17 points and three rebounds.
"I got in foul trouble the first half, so I came out the second half and made up for it," said Hall, a Faulkner University football signee.
Junior guard Bobby Bradford had 14 points, nine rebounds and four steals and was selected for the All-Tournament team. Senior guard Nick Stewart had 12 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.
Stewart made the game-winning shot when the Tornadoes beat Houston County 88-86 in three overtimes in the 2010 Class 2A final. Pickens County defeated Cedar Bluff 70-62 in overtime last year in the Class 1A final.
Pickens County took an insurmountable lead with a 15-2 run in the third quarter.
"We felt like we could make a run right there, but those guys never quit, and you’ve got to give them credit for that," Plott said. "They kept fighting back. We just had to keep putting the pressure on them."
Bradford scored with an offensive rebound to give the Tornadoes a 36-34 lead. Stewart and Hall each made a 3-pointer during the run. Bradford banked in a basket and converted a steal into a layup to push the margin to 49-36.
"We knew they couldn’t handle our pressure," Hall said. "It’s hard for you to come back when we get on a run."
The Tornadoes ended the quarter with a 51-40 lead.
"That’s what put us in the hole," said Cedar Bluff coach Joe Carpenter, a Reform native who attended Pickens County through the fourth grade. "Their team is loaded with athletes."
DeAngelo Hardy scored 18 points and had six rebounds for the Tigers. Terrance Scales had 12 points and three rebounds. Rihied Harris had 11 points and nine rebounds. Evan McBurnett had 11 points and six rebounds.
Pickens County senior LaJuan Doss hurt his left knee in the first quarter and played only four minutes in the semifinal win over Georgiana. He started against Cedar Bluff and played 24 minutes.
"I went to the doctor (Wednesday) night and got a couple of shots so I’d be able to play," Doss said. "Tonight was my last high school game. I had to play.
"We’re the best class that ever came through Pickens County High School."
Doss had four points, three rebounds and two assists. He even caused a couple of charging fouls to be called against the Tigers.
"He is the glue that holds us together," Plott said. "Even if he just had to dress and sit on the bench, I felt like that would have been better for us, just for the mindset of the other players."
Doss’ last two points in a Pickens County uniform came on free throws that made it 68-52 with 1:15 left.
"I wanted him out there, and he wanted to be out there," Plott said. "That’s nothing different from what he’s done for us all year long. He’s going to come in and do whatever it takes to help us win."
All-Tournament: MVP De’Marko Hall, Pickens County; Bobby Bradford, Pickens County; Warren Betts, Pickens County; DeAngelo Hardy, Cedar Bluff; Terrance Scales, Cedar Bluff; Adrian Rich, Georgiana
Reach Andrew Carroll at email@example.com or at 205-722-0223.