Anniston girls make fourth-quarter statement, advance


Feb. 20—Anniston’s girls must win three more games to repeat as Class 4A champions, but they won a Northeast Regional showdown between the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the state Friday.

They did it with a statement fourth quarter, and a statement made by the reigning 4A player of the year.

Allasha Dudley scored 13 of her game-high 31 points in the fourth quarter, and top-ranked Anniston held No. 2 Priceville without a field goal in the quarter to secure a 58-42 victory in their Northeast Regional semifinal at Anniston High School.

Anniston (23-3) advanced to Monday’s 9 a.m. final in Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews Coliseum. The Bulldogs await their opponent.

Area rival Handley will play Friday’s New Hope-St. John Paul II winner Saturday at 2 p.m.

Priceville finished 25-9.

Anniston and Priceville finished the regular season ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the season’s final Alabama Sports Writers Association poll. The winner would come away as the favorite going forward.

Anniston coach Eddie Bullock invoked one of Alabama football coach Nick Saban’s pet sayings in throwing up caution.

Bullock called the victory “great for the confidence, but I’m kind of like Coach Saban. I told them that the No. 1 ranking is kind of like rat poison.

“You all have to remember who was ranked No. 1 before we were.”

Priceville coach Terrie Nelson, whose team played in the Hanceville regional before the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s most recent reclassification and realignment, said the Bulldogs worked all season toward a potential showdown with Anniston.

“We probably played the toughest schedule we’ve played in several years,” she said. “We put them against 5A, 6A and 7A schools to prepare, especially for this moment.

“We knew we’d probably meet Anniston.”

Priceville’s five seniors gave Anniston three anxious quarters. Led by Abigail Garrison’s 16 points and floor presence from senior point guard Jenna Walker, the Bulldogs led Anniston 13-9 through one, 28-26 at halftime and 40-39 going into the fourth quarter.

A Western Kentucky signee, Walker finished with 11 points, including a turnaround, buzzer-beating 3-pointer just before halftime.

Anniston switched to a 1-3-1 zone to start the fourth quarter, and Dudley found her gear.

Anniston scored the fourth quarter’s first 19 points to lead 58-40. Dudley hit two 3-pointers early in the run, and she made seven out of eight free throws down the stretch.

“SeSe (Serena Hardy) gave me the ball,” Dudley said. “She trusted me. She did a good job pushing the ball, and she saw me open. I knew I had to make it.”

Anniston also got six of Asia Barclay’s 18 points in the fourth quarter, including an old-fashioned three-point play and a lob from Dudley on an inbounds pass.

The lob came after Dudley hustled to save Hardy’s tipped pass back to Hardy, saving the possession for Bullock to call timeout with a 48-40 lead and 4:10 to play.

“She’s a great player,” Nelson said. “We’ve been watching her. I just love her. You can tell that she’s the heart of the team. She wants the ball when it’s on the line.

“I have nothing but respect for her. She’s a phenomenal player.’

While Dudley’s big play in a big moment came as no surprise, Anniston’s fourth-quarter defense did. The 1-3-1 held Priceville to Walker’s two free throws in the quarter, those coming with 46.7 seconds to play.

Bullock called the 1-3-1 defense “the difference” but also praised Hardy, a freshman in her return season with Anniston after transferring from Sacred Heart.

Hardy finished with eight points, including two 3-pointers, but Bullock saw ready-for-primetime subtleties.

“She led us. She pushed the ball. She had active hands,” Bullock said. “That young lady, before it’s over with, she’ll probably be one of the best players to come through this program. She has that kind of speed.”

Hardy is no stranger to big moments. She helped Sacred Heart make its second consecutive regional appearance last season, and her defense on Dudley gave Sacred Heart a chance in last year’s Calhoun County final.

Having come up big in Friday’s 1-2 regional showdown, she sees big things ahead for Anniston.

“Repeat, go back to state,” she said. “If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going back to state.”

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.


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