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SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2007
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Powell's shot
sends Austin to Hanceville

Black Bears to play
Hillcrest on Wednesday

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

HAZEL GREEN — Of all the players most likely to hit a game winning shot for Austin, Quez Powell might be third or fourth on the list.

When Jay Sears is hot, he's tough to stop, and if Travis Cohn is going strong, he's normally the next in line with George Williams right up there.

But with 13.3 seconds left, Powell hit a runner in the lane to propel Austin High's boys basketball team to a 73-71 victory over Hazel Green in the Northwest sub-regional Friday.

"I was pretty nervous, but I had to do it for the team," Powell said. "I haven't hit a game-winning shot in a long time. When it left my hand, I was just hoping it would go in."

With the win, Austin (17-13) will advance to face Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa in the Northwest Regional on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. Hillcrest beat Jackson-Olin 70-50 on Friday to advance.

These same two teams met in last year's regional semifinals with Austin winning 72-71 in overtime.

The Black Bears entered Friday's game as the underdog against the Trojans (25-7).

But Austin looked sharp from the start.

Even during warm-ups it seemed apparent that Austin was more focused. Most of the Black Bears' shots were falling and their passing looked a little more crisp than usual.

"We said that we were going to come out and play as a family," said Sears, who finished with a game-high 23 points. "We knew that it was win or go home."

Defensively, Austin allowed Hazel Green guard Keegan Bell to score 20 points, but only four came in the first half as the Black Bears built a 36-28 lead by halftime.

Bell, a Vanderbilt signee, made 2 of 9 shots in the first half as the Black Bears had Cohn blanketing him.

"That is the toughest person I have had to guard this year," Cohn said. "You never know if he is going to shoot or drive."

The fourth quarter went back and forth with no team able to garner more than a two- or three-point lead until the 1:27 mark when Austin went up by five.

Bell then came back with a 3-point shot of his own, but down the stretch, the Trojans missed critical foul shots.

With 37.6 seconds left and Austin ahead 71-70, De Hereford missed both his free throws. Austin then turned the ball over, and Bell was fouled with 27.6 seconds left.

He hit one to tie it at 71, which set the stage for Powell to win it for the Black Bears.

After Powell's shot, the Trojans had a chance with eight seconds left when Bell missed an open jumper and then with 4.2 seconds after Williams — who finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds — missed his two free throws.

But Hazel Green's inbounds pass was tipped and intercepted by Cohn at midcourt.

Soon after, the Austin student section ran down from the bleachers to celebrate the win.

"That was a heck of a game," Garth said. "We knew Bell was going to get the ball. We needed a rebound at the end, and we got it when he missed."

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