News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Decatur High's Jarodiaus Willingham drives past Bob Jones' Ben Cooper in Huntsville on Tuesday night. Bob Jones won 62-60. Willingham had 13 points and nine rebounds in the game.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Decatur High's Jarodiaus Willingham drives past Bob Jones' Ben Cooper in Huntsville on Tuesday night. Bob Jones won 62-60. Willingham had 13 points and nine rebounds in the game.

Austin moves to 2nd round in Huntsville
Decatur, Athens fall in openers

By Brooke Milam 340-2460

HUNTSVILLE — In front of a near-full 2,400-seat Huntsville High gymnasium, the Austin Black Bears corrected an early-season slip-up with a 75-65 win over Madison Academy in the opening round of the Huntsville Times Classic on Tuesday.

"This is a heck of a tournament and with the competition so great, you've got to play your very best," Austin coach Demond Garth said. "The thing about the Huntsville Times Classic is that there are a lot of people that aren't fans of any one school, a lot of people that just love basketball here."

Tuesday's win avenged the Black Bears' 69-48 loss to Madison Academy in SportsMed Shootout on Nov. 24.

"The first time we played Madison Academy, we didn't play to the best of our ability, and we really wanted to come back from that," Austin senior guard Travis Cohn said.

Austin will play Sparkman today at 9 a.m., looking to turn around a 54-51 loss to Senators on Dec. 1. Sparkman advanced in the winners' bracket with a 58-43 win over Vestavia Hills.

"That's going to be a battle at 9 a.m.," Garth said.

Decatur lost to Bob Jones 62-60 in the nightcap, and Athens fell to Butler 78-50 on Tuesday morning.

Austin trailed defending 3A state champion Madison Academy 16-14 after the first quarter before coming alive in the second.

Cohn and Verkeneo Mann hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put Austin up 22-18 early in the second. Cohn had another trey midway through the period to put the Black Bears up 25-20, part of a 13-4 second-quarter run that bolstered Austin to a 40-28 halftime lead.

Austin never trailed again.

The Black Bears' lead was 58-49 at the end of the third quarter.

"Our guards really started taking it to Madison Academy," Garth said. "Quez Powell started taking it to the hole, and they had no answer for him."

Cohn's 24 points led Austin in scoring, while teammate Jay Sears put up 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Powell finished with 17.

For Madison Academy, 6-foot-11 Bawa Muniru had a game-high 27 points and pulled down 15 rebounds, while teammate Elliot Johnson scored 12.

"They've got a great big man and some good guards to help him," Sears said.

Garth said that in trying to contain Muniru, Sears and Chris Miller took most of the responsibility for guarding the Mustangs' star player.

"There's no way you can really guard Bawa, so we just had to stay on him and then crash the boards when he put up a shot and hope for a rebound," Garth said.

Austin did indeed win the rebounding battle on the defensive end of the court with 19 boards to the Mustangs' 14.

The Black Bears controlled the game after halftime, but not without threat from the Mustangs, who came as close as five points with a minute to play.

"I got a little nervous," Cohn said. "They play as hard as a 6A team and they could win a lot of 6A games."

Austin kept its composure to stretch its lead in the final minute for the double-digit win.

Bob Jones 62, Decatur 60: The Red Raiders led after each of the first three quarters, but let the advantage slip in the all-important final minutes.

Decatur will play Grissom in the consolation bracket today at 3 p.m.

Rico Pickett opened the game against the Patriots with a two-handed slam dunk, immediately followed by a Jarodiaus Willingham slam.

Pickett had another 360-dunk to put Decatur up 12-4 midway through the first quarter, and Decatur fed off that momentum to build a 27-13 lead at the end of the opening period.

Decatur led 35-30 at halftime and 48-41 after three quarters, but the Patriots stayed within two scores for most of the game.

With Bob Jones inching closer, a basket by Bob Jones' Antonio Davis tied the score at 60 with a minute to play, and Terry Randle's layup with 10 seconds left put the Patriots ahead for the first time in the contest.

With four seconds left, Decatur's last shot didn't fall.

Pickett's 18 points led Decatur, while teammate Rishard Tapscott added 14. Willingham had 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds.

Randle finished with 15 points and nine rebounds for Bob Jones, while Davis scored 13.

Butler 78, Athens 50: The Golden Eagles fell to 5A powerhouse Butler, who dominated the first half and coasted to the win.

Athens will play Huntsville High today at 10:30 a.m. in the consolation bracket. The Crimson Panthers fell to Oakland of Murfreesboro, Tenn., 72-57 in the opening round.

On Tuesday morning, the Rebels led 14-6 after the first quarter and then exploded for 30 second-quarter points, while Athens scored eight. It meant a 44-14 halftime lead for the Rebels and despite a more solid second half, the Golden Eagles couldn't make up lost ground.

Shooting 32 percent from the field haunted Athens the most, while the Rebels shot 64 percent. Larquis Crutcher and Justin Pitts both scored in double-figures for the Golden Eagles. Crutcher's 17 points led all scorers while Pitts had 13 and the pair had six rebounds apiece.

Jeremy Stinnett grabbed a team-high seven rebounds for Athens.

Butler placed four players in double-figures scoring, led by Dionte Clayborn's 16 points and six steals. Also for the Rebels, Ronnie Clark and Marquez Cothron each had 12 points, and Quinton Borja 11.

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