BIRMINGHAM – LaFayette’s dream of a fourth state title came to a difficult end here at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center earlier today as the Bulldogs came up short to the No. 3 Tanner High Rattlers in the AHSAA Class 2A state title game, 61-45. In a battle of strength vs. strength, the highly efficient offense of the Rattlers proved to be too much for the Bulldog defense that had been the backbone of their playoff run.
“They were talented and fast,” LHS senior forward Qua Boyd said after the game, “and that was the first team we’d seen like that.” Kentavious Landers, who sank the game-winning shot on Tuesday to get the Dogs to the title game, echoed Boyd’s comment. “We don’t see too many teams like that in 2A,” he said. “They were fast and made shots. We got in a hole and though we’ve been in situations like that many times, i guess today we couldn’t fight our way out.”
“I think that a combination of upperclassmen guards with the speed and athleticism of these guys mixed with fundamentals and their ability to shoot the ball really stunned us early,” LHS Coach Obadiah Threadgill said. “We play some good teams and against some really good guards in our area but these kids, we just could’t quite get them rattled, even when we scored they would call a timeout and settle themselves down and they came out and responded to almost every jam that we threw them in. That and their ability to shoot the ball and to take it off the dribble consistently, that really stunned us a little bit and we really couldn’t recover.”
Tanner’s offensive ability was evident early in the contest. Midway through the first the Rattlers put some distance on LaFayette with an 8-0 run. Tanner was red-hot from the floor in the first half, connecting on nearly 50 percent of their shots, including 4-of-7 from behind the three point line. They led by as much as 14 at one point in the second, and had a 30-18 lead at the half.
With 1:21 left to play in the third, a jumper by Boyd brought the LHS deficit to six points and the Bulldogs looked like they were setting up for yet another comeback. But the Rattlers responded after a timeout and regained a comfortable 40-31 lead heading to the fourth. The Bulldogs really wouldn’t get close again as the Rattlers matched every basket the Bulldogs made over the final eight minutes.
Boyd led all scorers with 22 points and he grabbed eight rebounds. Both Kaminski
Bledsoe and Tyric Davis scored six points for LHS and Landers had five. Boyd and Davis were both named the the all-tournament after the game.
Threadgill’s bunch surprised nearly everyone and probably exceeded their own expectations with their playoff run, but the pain of coming so close hung over this team as they stepped up to accept the runner-up trophy. There was no joy for making it this far.
Regardless of the outcome, it was still a big step for the Bulldog program and their second year coach. “After the game i really didn’t talk about basketball a lot,” Threadgill said. “It was really me thanking my seniors for leading this program, for not making it difficult for me to come in and coach them and for accepting the changes I put in place. For the young guys, I told them to use this pain as fuel because we don’t look at failure as failure, but in order for us to be successful, we’ve got to feel what it feels like to not quite get our goals accomplished. So now we’re going to come back, take a couple of weeks, get done with school, and start back next year at square one to see if we can make another run.”
*A full story on the game will appear in next week’s edition of The Sun*