By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director
SPRING GARDEN – Gaylesville boys basketball coach Kolby Brannon has said before the Trojans are either going to shoot their way to Jacksonville State or shoot their way out of the season.
They’re now a step closer to playing at Pete Mathews Coliseum.
Behind Kyler Bradley’s 31 points, including 10 in overtime, the Trojans outlasted Cedar Bluff 71-67 in the Class 1A, Area 12 boys basketball tournament on Saturday.
It was the third time Gaylesville and Cedar Bluff played on the basketball court in 15 days. It’s the second time the Trojans (14-17) defeated Cedar Bluff (8-21) on a neutral court this season. Gaylesville defeated the Tigers 49-43 in overtime in the Cherokee County Tournament semifinals back on Jan. 19.
Ironically, the Trojans will face the same team as they did the last time they beat Cedar Bluff – the Spring Garden Panthers.
Only this time an area championship will be on the line on Monday at 6:30 p.m. – Gaylesville’s first shot at one since 1988.
“Why not us? Why not win another one and go to JSU? Let’s keep going,” Gaylesville coach Kolby Brannon said. “We knew we had a chance to be special this year, but to be honest, they’ve exceeded my expectations. This team’s handled adversity better than anybody. We had three people foul out (during Saturday’s game), but people just kept hitting big shots.”
Bradley was one of those big shot performers, especially in overtime.
Cedar Bluff had built a 62-58 lead in the extra period with just under three minutes to play. Bradley hit a free throw and had a putback on a rebound to cut the Trojan deficit to a single point at 62-61 with 2:25 to go.
He later gave the Trojans the lead for good at 65-64 with a basket-and-one at the 1:18 mark.
“We had all of these people watching us and I didn’t want to let anybody down,” Bradley said.
And he didn’t.
“When we’re in the big situations, he gets it done every time. It’s like clockwork,” Brannon said of Bradley. “I just knew if we could keep it close and give ourselves a shot, he would keep coming up big for us.”
Another Bradley basket, and one of two free throws by his younger brother Kuper Bradley with 56.3 seconds remaining extended Gaylesville’s lead to 68-64, but a clutch 3-pointer by Cedar Bluff’s Hunter Stallings pulled the Tigers within one at 68-67 with 38.9 seconds to go.
A free throw apiece by Kyler and Kuper Bradley pushed the Trojan lead back up to three at 70-67 with 10.5 seconds remaining.
Following a Tiger timeout with 4.7 seconds to go, Cedar Bluff had one last shot to tie by in-bounding the ball on their side of the court. However, Kuper Bradley made a steal on a Landon Chumbler tipped ball. Kuper Bradley was fouled with 0.2 seconds left on the clock and hit one of two free throws for the final.
Prior to Kyler and Kuper Bradley’s heroics, Cedar Bluff’s Isaac Bishop had some of his own. He scored eight of his 16 points in the final 1:40 remaining in regulation, including a pair of free throws with 25.4 seconds to go to tie the game at 58.
Kuper Bradley had a chance to win the game in regulation for the Trojans, but his 3-pointer was off at the buzzer to force the extra session.
“We had three people foul out, but people just kept hitting big shots,” Brannon said. “Kyler and Kuper kept coming up big. That was just huge.”
In addition to his game-high 31 points, Kyler Bradley also accounted for nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks. Kuper Bradley scored 18 points and had five assists, four boards and a steal. Collin Hendon had nine points, 10 rebounds, four steals and two assists. Braden Sharp and Caden Angle both scored five points. Sharp also had six boards, three assists and a steal.
Cedar Bluff had both of its big men foul out. Kadin Fife fouled out with 2:53 left in regulation. Bishop picked up his fifth with two minutes to go in overtime.
Bishop led Cedar Bluff with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Fife rang for 15 points and grabbed nine boards.
Stallings sank four treys and had 14 points. Eli McFry added a pair of treys and netted 12 points. Carter Dillingham finished with seven points.
“We dug ourselves a hole and got in foul trouble, but we did fight,” Cedar Bluff coach Johnny Amison said. “We finally remembered where our strength is, and we kept going inside. Isaac hit some shots and got some and-ones. We battled back, but it was the same thing as the last time they beat us. If you let Kyler get to 30 points, there’s a good chance they’re going to win. We let him get 31 and they wound up winning the game in the end. You’ve just got to tip your hat to them.”
Spring Garden 90, Jacksonville Christian 44
SPRING GARDEN – Noah Barber sank six 3-pointers and finished with 20 points to lead the Spring Garden Panthers in a 90-44 rout of Jacksonville Christian in the Class 1A, Area 12 boys basketball tournament on Saturday.
“My teammates set me up and there were just good looks for us,” Barber said. “They were trying to pack the inside and stop John (Welsh) and Jake (Welsh). I was open and was able to knock down some shots.
Spring Garden coach Levi Hatcher said Barber “come in and gave us a spark.”
“We’ve tried to really work with him. He doesn’t want to look at the rim as soon as he catches it,” Hatcher said. “It’s almost like he’s unsure of himself, but we keep telling him ‘You can shoot. You’re a shooter. You need to have your hands and feet ready and step into it with confidence.’
“Tonight he hit his first one. The next couple of times he looked to pass it, and I called him over and said ‘Do not look to pass the ball unless you look at the rim first.’ At that point he was getting his toes to the line when he’d catch it and was stepping into them with confidence.”
For the game, the Panthers (23-4) connected on 13 3-pointers. Chapel Pope posted four treys and had 14 points. John Welsh scored 15 points. Cole Bailey and Jake Welsh both finished with 11 points.
Jesse Gannaway topped the Thunder with 26 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Noah Lee finished with 10 points.
The Panthers pounced out to a 25-10 lead in the first quarter and held a 46-26 advantage at halftime. A 28-6 run by Spring Garden in the third blew the game wide open at 74-32.
“We came into today at our shoot around and our energy was unreal. The guys were ready. You could tell,” Hatcher said.