BIRMINGHAM – It was the most important game of the season, with everything on the line. But it was never even close.
With four minutes left in the state championship game, only one LaFayette starter was still on the court. Fourth year Bulldog coach Obadiah Threadgill had already started to clear his bench. And why not, his team had a 30-point advantage in the biggest game of the year.
There was no dramatic finish, no last second shot, just pure domination.
LaFayette High claimed their fourth state basketball championship Friday afternoon here in Birmingham, blowing out defending state champion Elba, 69-39. And it could have been much worse.
LaFayette had more than their fair share of close games this year, but in the Final Four this week, the Bulldogs outscored their opponents by a combined 61 points. The Bulldogs and Threadgill would never say that this title was easy, but it sure looked that way.
Leading the charge to the championship trophy was senior Trevond Barnes. He was a sophomore when the Dogs finished in the runner-up spot in the title game two years ago. There were tears shed after that loss.
Tears streamed down his face after the finals seconds ticked off the clock here today, but this time they were tears of joy and relief.
The 6’9” senior could not be contained by Elba. He scored the Bulldogs’ first eight points and would finish with a game-high 28.
Barnes was so dominant, that midway through the fourth quarter, he actually had more points than the entire Elba team.
“I know that in the past couple of games, Jatarvious (Whitlow) has really been carrying us scoring,” Barnes said. “So I was ready to go out there and score and be dominant. I saw they (Elba) weren’t playing me tight, so I decided to make them respect me.”
As for the rest of the Bulldogs, they were equally impressive, especially on defense. LHS held Elba to just five points in the first quarter and 15 in the first half. LaFayette forced 19 turnovers and pulled down 44 defensive rebounds. Elba shot just 22 percent from the floor in the game.
Barnes’ dominance and the LHS defense allowed the Dogs to open up a 31-15 halftime lead.
Elba opened the second half by cutting their deficit to 12 points, but they would get no closer. LaFayette went on an 18-3 run over the final five minutes of the third quarter and had a 51-24 lead heading to the fourth.
The highlights of the final eight minutes were Barnes’ authoritative dunks, but for the most part, the fourth quarter was a formality.
After Threadgill cleared the bench, the only thing left to do was to wait for the seconds to tick off.
And when the clock finally hit zero, the hundreds of LaFayette fans that made the drive erupted.
The Bulldogs were once again at the top of the basketball mountain.
“To watch our young men cry their eyes out a couple of years ago was hard,” Threadgill said. “I looked in their faces and told them that we will get back here, I don’t know how, I don’t know who we’re going to go through, but I know we’re going to get back. I told them to use the pain that you feel as a motivating point, as a driving force, and they did exactly that.
“We’ve got some really determined guys, some guys that are really driven and they put in a lot of hours and those things show. Everybody on our team contributed in some form or fashion, even if they didn’t score. They are really selfless. A true team.”
Barnes finished the game with a double-double including 11 rebounds to go along with his 28 points; he also had seven blocks.
Whitlow continued to stand tall in the spotlight. With his aggressive play and acrobatic moves, the sophomore finished with 21 points and four steals.
Senior Kaminski Bledsoe finished with six points and Quentavious Whitlow had five. Quentin Ray scored two and pulled down six rebounds.
Ray and Jatarvious Whitlow were both named to the Class 2A Final Four All-Tournament team and Barnes was named tournament MVP.
The Bulldogs finished the season with a 25-5 record. They captured the Area 8 title and won the Central Region. And of course, they added another championship trophy to the collection at LHS.
“We aren’t better than anybody,” a jubilant Whitlow said after the win, “we just play as a team and work harder than everybody.”
*For full coverage of the LHS 2015 state title, see this week’s print edition of The Sun.