Hokes Bluff falls to Munford 48-46 in sub-region tourney


Hokes Bluff’s Matthew Watkins shoots against Munford on Friday. (Photo by Nick Johnston | Gadsden Times)


The record book will have to be put away for at least another year.

Hokes Bluff lost to Munford 48-46 Friday night in a Class 4A Northeast Sub-Regional boys high school basketball game, ending the Eagles’ season and spoiling what would have been their first trip to the regional tournament.

It was the first boys sub-regional game Hokes Bluff (20-10) had hosted in school history and followed a regular season area title and area tournament championship. But the school’s first trip to Jacksonville State will have to wait, as Munford proved too much down the stretch and earned the right to continue its season.

Still, Hokes Bluff coach Greg Watkins wanted to look at all the positives from another 20-win season.

“These guys are special,” he said. “This is back-to-back 20 win seasons for us. When things are going good and you’re having a good year, it goes by fast. I’m extremely proud of what they did.

“We came up two points short of getting to JSU, but the back-to-back 20 wins is pretty special.”

Looking back, it easily could’ve gone the Eagles’ way. They had multiple opportunities late in the game to pull out the win, especially when Munford (13-15) went 1 for 6 at the free-throw line in the final 1:07. But a pair of easy transition layups by Munford’s Jaylen Mitchell and second-chance opportunities ultimately doomed Hokes Bluff.

“The two layups we gave up in transition, that hurt at that point in the game,” Watkins said. “We got it to within two and gave up some offensive rebounds. We couldn’t do that (and win).”

The game stayed close throughout despite Munford making 4 of 6 3-point attempts in the first quarter to take a 17-8 lead into the second. That was the largest lead of the game for either team, and Hokes Bluff pulled within 26-24 by halftime.

Munford took a 31-29 lead at the 3:54 mark of the third, but Hokes Bluff scored six straight to take a four-point lead. Isaac Haas scored on a short jumper to tie the game, Nick Woodruff hit a tough hook shot to give the Eagles their first lead and a layup by Matthew Watkins gave Hokes Bluff a 35-31 advantage.

But from there, Hokes Bluff didn’t score for more than six minutes and allowed Munford to go on an 8-0 rally for a 38-35 lead with 5:33 remaining in the game.

Two layups by Haas knotted the score at 39, but Mitchell’s layup put the Lions ahead for good after his first of two transition buckets.

Munford led by as many as five in the final two minutes, and despite struggling at the free-throw line, managed to force two turnovers in the final 1:07 to seal the game.

“We handled the press OK, but we turned it over sometimes against their zone,” Greg Watkins said. “It wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen all year long, really. It’s just we had turnovers at a tough time in the game. The thing that probably hurt us most was they did a good job of jumping in the passing lanes out of their zone.”

Haas, a 7-foot-2 junior center who is getting plenty of recruiting attention, scored a game-high 20 points despite being triple-teamed every time he touched the ball. He added nine blocks.

“He did what he’s done all year long,” Greg Watkins said. “For a guy that draws as much attention as he does in zones — he touched the ball in the post and there were three guys on top of him in a hurry — but he played hard.”

Tanner Shields added nine points — on three 3-pointers — for the Eagles, while Matthew Watkins had seven points. Brad Robertson finished with six points.

For Munford, Mitchell scored 11 points and Quan Richardson added nine points. The Lions will play Guntersville at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at JSU.