Familiar opponents for Austin, Decatur
Black Bears, Red Raiders know all about their foes
By Mark Edwards
email@example.com · 340-2461
John Carroll? Isn't that the team that ended Decatur High's boys basketball season last year?
"You had to go and remind me, didn't you?" Red Raiders head coach Jamie Lee said, laughing.
And what about Jeff Davis? Isn't that the team that ended the Austin boys' season last year? Didn't it happen in the Class 6A state semifinals in Birmingham?
Black Bears coach Demond Garth doesn't need a refresher course, either.
"It hurts to lose in Birmingham," he said. "It stays with you."
In an odd twist, both Decatur and Austin have familiar foes waiting for them when they travel to Birmingham this week for the Final Four.
Austin (19-13) will face defending state champion Jeff Davis (26-5) in the 6A semifinals Thursday at 10:30 a.m. in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. Decatur (27-5) will meet John Carroll (30-5) in the 5A semifinals Friday at 10:30 a.m.
Jeff Davis and Austin faced off twice last season. They met Dec. 23, 2005, in the Sneaky Pete's Jaguar Classic finals with Austin winning 76-65. Jay Sears scored 32 points in that win.
They met again in the state semifinals with Jeff Davis taking a 65-40 win. Austin trailed 36-20 at halftime before cutting the lead to 36-27 shortly after the third quarter began.
However, Austin went on a stretch of 7 minutes, 35 seconds without scoring a point, and Jeff Davis turned a 39-29 advantage into a 59-29 lead.
For the Volunteers, Courtney Fortson had 24 points and eight rebounds, while Varez Ward added 16 points, eight rebounds, three steals and three assists. Ward did not play in the first meeting last season.
Both are back this year and helped pace Jeff Davis' 65-63 win over Carver-Montgomery in the Central Regional finals.
In a game in which Jeff Davis led by as much as 19, Forston had 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists, while Ward added 18 points.
Decatur and John Carroll met in last season's 6A Northwest sub-regional with the Cavaliers winning 65-51.
They played again this year in the Martin Luther King Classic on Jan. 15 in Birmingham with Decatur taking a 69-60 win.
Rico Pickett scored 21 points in the win as the Red Raiders rallied from a 42-37 deficit late in the third quarter. Jarodiaus Willingham added 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Mark Mason pitched in 11 points.
Alabama football signee Rolando McClain added eight points and seven rebounds in his second game since rejoining the Decatur roster.
John Carroll's Andrew Steele, a junior and the brother of Alabama point guard Ronald Steele, had 16 points.
In last year's sub-regional, Decatur had trimmed then-No. 1 John Carroll's lead to four points early in the second half, but the Cavaliers reeled off a 14-2 run to take control.
Steele had 25 points and made 11 of 12 foul shots.
Decatur was led by Pickett and McClain, each of whom had 10 points.
This year, John Carroll is making its first trip to the Final Four since Ronald Steele led the program to consecutive 6A state championships in 2003 and '04.
The Cavaliers advanced with a 64-32 win over Parker in the Central Regional finals. Andrew Steele had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Brandon Chambers pitched in 15 points.
Steele had 13 points and nine rebounds in a 49-44 regional semifinal win over Wilcox-Central.
Been there, done that
Austin:The Black Bears faced Jeff Davis, their Final Four opponent, twice last year. Austin won 76-65 during the regular season but lost 65-40 in the state semifinals.
Decatur:After losing to John Carroll in the Northwest sub-regional 65-51 last year, Decatur got another shot at the Cavaliers in this year’s regular season. The Red Raiders won 69-60.
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