News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Austin senior Jay Sears, left, drives past Tanner senior Rod Byrd in Decatur on Friday night. Sears scored 17 and Byrd nine in Austin's 66-45 win.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Austin senior Jay Sears, left, drives past Tanner senior Rod Byrd in Decatur on Friday night. Sears scored 17 and Byrd nine in Austin's 66-45 win.

Austin treats past champs to victory
With 1973 team watching,
Black Bears beat Tanner

By Paul Stackhouse · 340-2460

Chants of “Da Bears” drifted throughout Austin High’s Joe Jones Gymnasium on Friday night.

Some of the chants referenced the Chicago Bears football team, while the rest were cheers for Austin’s 66-45 boys basketball victory over Tanner.

While there was some pressure on the Black Bears to play well, it was nothing compared to the nervousness painted on Austin coach Demond Garth’s face.

The 1973 Austin state championship basketball team was honored at halftime of the boys game, and Garth didn’t want to disappoint the old Austin standouts by losing.

“I could feel every one of their eyes watching me from across the gym,” Garth said. “I have never been that nervous before a game. Really, I have never been that nervous playing a game.

“My father (Ben Garth) talks about the 1973 team all the time. He tells me all the time about how good they were. I could envision Billy “Dog” Sandifer’s picture on the wall of the gym. I could see Marvin Sales on the wall, and I could see Coach (Roger) Mathis sitting across the gym.

“All of them were watching me. You talk about pressure — I’m just really pleased we played well and beat a tough Tanner team.”

Jay Sears led Austin (16-11) with 17 points and eight assists.

Verkereo Mann finished with 16 points with Travis Cohn hitting 11 and George Williams 10.

Williams led the Black Bears in rebounding with 11, while Justin Jones pulling down seven.

Latraius Mosley led Tanner (22-5) in scoring with 20 points, while Demarcus King also hit double figures with 14 points. Austin led 17-11 at the end of the first quarter before making a 14-6 run past the Rattlers in the second.

With less than a minute remaining in the third quarter, Sears hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Black Bears a solid 53-28 lead heading into the final eight minutes of the game.

Tanner coach Chris Whitt said it was obvious the Rattlers were living in the past against Austin.

“We were living off of the Decatur win we had Tuesday night,” Whitt said. “I feel like our guys didn’t play with any emotion. We didn’t even play one good, full quarter. We just didn’t get after it and you can’t do that against a team like Austin.”

The Black Bears hit 25 of 45 shots from the floor with Tanner connecting on 18 of 45. Also, Austin hit 8 of 16 shots from 3-point territory while the Rattlers made 2 of 15 from beyond the arc.

Tanner girls 56, Austin 50: The Lady Rattlers led 14-12 at the end of the first quarter and 29-22 at halftime.

The game was close at the end of the third quarter with the Lady Rattlers holding a 41-38 advantage.

Hollye Keenum sealed the victory for Tanner after hitting two foul shots with 90 seconds left to play, giving the Lady Rattlers a 55-48 lead.

“It’s been a good week for us,” Tanner coach Larry Greene said. “We beat Decatur on Tuesday night and Austin tonight. Anybody that does that has a good week.

Playing games against Decatur and Austin helps our program. Hopefully, it will help us get ready for the area tournament.”

Keenum led Tanner (19-8) in scoring with 24 points, while Cecily Woods finished with 19. Woods and Diedra Troupe
each pulled down eight rebounds.

Scoring double figures for Austin (15-15) were Ardiana Wilkerson with 14 and Chasity Stover with 10 points. Nikkia Jordan had a game-high nine rebounds.

Austin coach Bruce Hamilton summed up his feelings in two sentences.

“The whipped us in all phases of the game,” Hamilton said. “We knew what Tanner was capable of before this game, and we just got beat by a better team.”

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