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TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2007
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Tanner's Hollye Keenum gets off a shot against a Mars Hill defender in the Northwest Regional. Keenum won tournament most valuable player honors and will pace the LadyRattlers to the Final Four.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Tanner's Hollye Keenum gets off a shot against a Mars Hill defender in the Northwest Regional. Keenum won tournament most valuable player honors and will pace the LadyRattlers to the Final Four.

Tanner Rattlers' double bite
Tanner boys, girls on pace for school's first double state titles since 1986

By Brooke Milam
bmilam@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

There won't be many people in Tanner on Tuesday morning. Tanner basketball fans have a couple of reasons to hit the road for Birmingham.

Both the Tanner boys and girls basketball teams will play in the Class 2A state semifinals at Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, and fans making the trip will get to see two Rattlers squads for the price of one ticket.

The last time both Tanner teams advanced to the Final Four in the same year was 1986 and both teams sealed the deal, taking state titles that year.

Tanner's girls (24-9) will face the Reeltown Lady Rebels (24-6) on Tuesday at 9 a.m., followed by Tanner's boys (27-5) against the defending state champion R.C. Hatch Bobcats (23-4) at 10:30 a.m.

Class 6A Jeff Davis is the only other program that will have two teams at the Final Four this week.

Minutes after Tanner's boys took a 67-58 win over West Morgan in the Northwest Regional finals, coach Chris Whitt already knew who his Rattlers would face in the state semifinals, and he didn't need much of a scouting report to comment.

"Yeah, we're playing a team — you may have heard of them. They've got some tradition," Whitt said.

R.C. Hatch has won three of the last four 2A state championships.

The Bobcats have won eight state boys basketball championships, including 2A titles in 2006, 2004, 2003, and 1978 and in 3A crowns in 1995, 1994, 1987 and 1985.

Tanner last made the Final Four in 2003 and fell to R.C. Hatch 78-50 in the semifinals.

"It's a great challenge because they have a great tradition of winning," Tanner senior Rod Byrd said. "We've got something to prove. The last time we went down there, we didn't get it done and we want to do it this time."

Byrd, an all-tournament selection at the regional, will lead the charge for Tanner, along with regional tournament most valuable player Latraius Mosley.

The Bobcats will counter with guard Frankie Sullivan and center Calvin Pope. Both were key factors in R.C. Hatch's championship season last year.

Barbour County and Ranburne will play Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. in the other boys 2A semifinal.

For the Tanner girls, it didn't look like a Final Four season before Christmas.

But while struggling early produced loses, it also gave the Lady Rattlers experience that has paid off.

"We put our girls up against teams they weren't expected to beat," head coach Larry Greene said. "They played a lot of games they were not supposed to win, and our record wasn't that good.

"But we thought that kind of early schedule would prepare us and make us better, and we feel like it did."

Before Jan. 1, Tanner played 4A East Limestone twice, 4A Ardmore and 6A Austin in regular-season games. The Lady Rattlers also faced larger schools in the Decatur Orthopaedic Classic and the Chotawhatchee Classic in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

After all that, Tanner was 7-7. The Lady Rattlers have won 17 of 19 since, including wins over 6A Austin and 5A Decatur in the week leading up to the area tournament.

"We knew we were better than 7-7," Tanner's Hollye Keenum said. "The competition we played was good, but we thought that in the long run it would help us."

Both Tanner and semifinal Reeltown were unranked in the state polls at the end of the regular season, but have come on strong in the postseason.

"When we were 7-7, we wanted to prove a point because we thought we were better than that," Tanner's Cecily Woods said. "We lost to some good teams.

"Now we're going to Birmingham, and that's proven our point."

Keenum and Woods will lead the way as Tanner will try to contain Reeltown guard Shaina O'Neal and post Desiree Heard.

The pair paced Reeltown win over fourth-ranked Shades Mountain Christian 63-56 for the Central Regional title to advance to the Final Four for the first time since the format was introduced in 1995.

The Lady Rebels reached the state finals in 1991 and 1992.

Top-ranked Samson will play third-ranked Section in the other 2A girls semifinal Tuesday at noon.

Final Four schedule

Today's games involving local teams

Class 2A boys

Tanner (27-5) vs. R.C. Hatch (23-4), noon

Class 2A girls

Tanner(24-9) vs. Reeltown (24-6), 9 a.m.

Class 1A girls

Hazlewood (28-6) vs. Notasulga (21-7), 4 p.m.

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