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Austin High coach Demond Garth was frustrated with some of the officiating during the Class 6A semifinals in Birmingham on Thursday. But after his team lost 84-65 to Jeff Davis of Montgomery, Garth said, 'Jeff Davis beat us. ... We almost would have to play a perfect game to beat this team.' Austin finished the year at 19-14.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Austin High coach Demond Garth was frustrated with some of the officiating during the Class 6A semifinals in Birmingham on Thursday. But after his team lost 84-65 to Jeff Davis of Montgomery, Garth said, "Jeff Davis beat us. ... We almost would have to play a perfect game to beat this team." Austin finished the year at 19-14.

'Tough end to a season'
Austin falls to Jeff Davis in Final Four

By Brooke Milam
bmilam@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

BIRMINGHAM — The final margin was better than a year ago. But minutes after Austin's 84-65 loss to defending Class 6A state champion Jeff Davis in the state semifinals Friday, that's not what the Black Bears wanted to hear.

Facing Jeff Davis in the semifinals for the second straight year, Austin saw its season end one win short of the state championship game again.

Jeff Davis (27-5) will play LeFlore (30-3) in the state finals Saturday at 3 p.m. at Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

"It's another trip to Birmingham, but it never feels good to end like
this," Austin coach Demond Garth said.

"It's just a tough end to a season. There's no excuses this year. Jeff Davis beat us, ... We almost would have to play a perfect game to beat this team."

Jeff Davis carried the memory of last season's 25-point winning margin when it lead by double digits from the second quarter on, but the Volunteers said they didn't expect this season's matchup to be the same type of dominant contest. And for three quarters, it wasn't.

"We know not to overlook anybody," Jeff Davis senior guard Courtney Fortson said. "We never underestimate people, and that's why we have this record."

The Black Bears came out hot. Sophomore Verkeneo Mann drilled the first shot of the game, a 3-pointer from the right wing 26 seconds into the game.

"I thought everything was going to go good for us. I actually thought we had a chance to win it this time," Mann said.

Mann's trey was Austin's lone points until midway through the first quarter when a basket by freshman Jay Watkins, assisted by senior Jay Sears, brought the Black Bears within 9-5 of the Jeff Davis lead.

Watkins scored five straight points before another Mann 3-pointer tied the game at 11 with 2:32 left in the opening period.

Jeff Davis maintained control with a basket by Charvez Davis, and the Vols held a 15-13 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

Missed free throws hurt Austin in the first half. The Black Bears were 4-of-9 from the charity stripe as Jeff Davis built momentum.

“We were in the game, but when we stepped up to the free-throw line, it just wasn’t going in,” Sears said. “It would go in and come right back out.”

The Vols outscored Austin 23-16 in the second quarter, the most lopsided scoring of the four quarters, and Davis banked in a 10-foot jumper at the buzzer, giving the Montgomery school a 38-29 halftime lead.

The Vols’ advantage grew to 11 points a little over a minute into the third, as Jeff Davis put together 75 percent shooting from the field in the second half, finishing 62 percent for the game.

“(Fortson) was just making shots, Davis was unreal and (Varez) Ward was unreal,” Garth said.

“They’ve got three really good guards and we do, too, but it was just going right for them today.”

Ward led all scorers with 30 points, while Davis finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, and Fortson had 10 points and five assists.

A 3-pointer by Davis at the third quarter buzzer gave Jeff Davis a 61-49 lead heading into the final period.

“Austin has some very good players and came with a good game plan,” Jeff Davis coach Terry Posey said. “Our little run there in the third quarter gave us some cushion and we hung on from there.”

Sears’ double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds led Austin. Mann added 14 points, and Watkins scored 11. Senior Travis Cohn and Quez Powell put up seven points apiece for the Black Bears, while George Williams had six. Cohn also had a team-leading five assists.

“I think our younger guys really, really wanted it, and (the seniors) wanted it just as bad,” Sears said. “The younger class has a good chance to make it back down to Birmingham, and I hope they can come down here and do what they’ve got to do to win it.”

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