Garth talks, players listen
Austin pulls away for 1st region win
By Bradley Handwerger
Up by two points at halftime to a team with only one win on its record, Austin head coach Demond Garth knew what was wrong.
He wasn't quite sure how to correct it, however.
So he did what every good coach does when pressed for an answer — a good, old-fashioned stern lecture.
Apparently, it worked, and Austin went on to defeat Class 6A, Area 16 rival Florence 55-42 in Joe Jones Gymnasium on Tuesday night.
"We just told them to play hard," Garth said, smiling wryly as he spoke.
Austin (4-3, 1-1) didn't do anything spectacular to get the win. Eight of 10 players scored for the Black Bears, led by junior George Williams' 12, junior Quez Powell's 11, and senior Jay Sears' 10. Sophomore Verkeneo Mann added nine points and a boost of energy.
If you read between the lines, you'll realize that Austin's usual suspects weren't so usual against the Falcons (1-7, 0-2). Sears' double-digit night was quiet. And fellow senior standout Travis Cohn had only two points.
It wasn't until after halftime, though, that the youngsters stepped up. Throughout the first half, the Black Bears had trouble with Florence's 2-3 zone defense.
"In the first half, we stunk it up," Garth said. "We weren't attacking the zone. We were sitting back. Against a zone, you have to attack."
But in the second half, the game changed. Austin crashed the glass, broke down the zone, and broke Florence's game plan.
"I think the difference is they're athleticism," Florence head coach Jody Dodd said. "This is a tough place to play. Everybody knows that."
Even as the fourth quarter began, Austin didn't have the game sealed. But it was at that point that the Black Bears took over.
Leading 38-32 to begin the period, Chris Miller hit a layup to push the lead to eight. On the next possession, Austin missed two shots before Sears converted the putback for a 42-32 lead.
Adam Threet later hit a layup for the Falcons to cut the lead back to single digits, then Sears hit the front-end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity.
A minute later, Sears made a beautiful reverse layup, running the baseline before rolling the ball off the glass and through the rim for a 45-34 lead.
Florence never threatened Austin again.
"It's just one of those things where we have a young team, and we have to learn to play against a zone better," Garth said.
If not for Mann, Williams and Powell, though, Garth said the Black Bears could have been in trouble.
"We had some younger guys step up in the first half," he said. "They at least kept us in the ballgame."
The lackadaisical opening 16 minutes had nothing to do with the game sitting in between Friday's loss to Sparkman and the upcoming showdown with Decatur, Garth said.
"It did sit in the middle. It's a letdown game if we had beaten to Sparkman, but we lost," Garth said. "Give credit to Florence. They play hard. They were real scrappy."
Drake Ray led the Falcons with 14 points, Jarrell Hollingsworth added 13 and Arsenial Ingram had 12.
Austin girls 69, Florence 44: Early on, this game had all the makings of a classic close area game. In the end, however, Austin was just too strong. And Jazmine Powers had a lot to do with that.
She scored 19 points, had five rebounds, three assists and a steal, all in just 16 minutes
"She did a nice job and was in foul trouble," Austin head coach Bruce Hamilton said. "She just kind of makes us go."
Said Powers: "I got in foul trouble and was disappointed. I had to go in and still be aggressive."
China McDaniel added 11 points for the Lady Black Bears (5-4, 1-1 in the area). Charnise Mitchell's 17 points led the Lady Falcons (3-3, 0-2).
The game was back-and-forth through two and a half quarters. Austin led by two at the break 25-23, and fell behind 31-29 with 5:44 to go in the third quarter when Candace Boddie hit a close-range shot.
McDaniel answered later when she hit her first free throw. On the second, Shara Foster grabbed the rebound, missed a shot which McDaniel put back for a 32-31 Austin lead.
McDaniel pushed the lead to 34-31 on a fastbreak layup. Boddie followed that by making the first of two free throws.
And then everything went right for the Lady Black Bears, who went on a 21-7 run to break the game open. Austin couldn't miss, converting on six straight trips at one point.
"I thought we were pretty sloppy in the first half," Hamilton said. "We come out in the second half, and the inside girls did a better job of defending. We just played a lot better with a lot more energy."
The win was important for Austin's postseason chances, Hamilton said. He called the game a "must-win" because of Austin's loss to Sparkman on Friday. "One of either us or Florence was going to be 0-2 in the region, and that's very tough to overcome," Hamilton said. "We didn't play like it to begin with, but it was a must-win."
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