No. 9 Gadsden City faces No. 3 Shades Valley in regional semis
Mon. February 17, 2014 at 11:55 p.m. | By J.J. Hicks Staff Writer
Gadsden City coach Jeremy Brooks talks with TK Blount, left, and Brooke Burns team during a break in action of the Titans’ game against Florence on Jan. 4. The ninth-ranked Titans play at 9 a.m. today in the Northeast Regional basketball tournament. (Photo by Dave Hyatt | Gadsden Times)
Class 6A, No. 9 Gadsden City opens the Northeast Regional high school basketball tournament at 9 a.m. today against No. 3 Shades Valley at Pete Mathews Coliseum on the campus of Jacksonville State University.
The Titans likely will not be fazed by the atmosphere, as they have faced plenty of challenges this season, including a road game at No. 7 Lee-Huntsville on Friday. With their season hanging in the balance, Gadsden City (20-4) upended the Generals 51-45 to guarantee another game in its season.
The win came despite the Titans committing 13 turnovers and hitting just 2 of 11 shots from beyond the 3-point line.
In most cases, Gadsden City is the team forcing turnovers and hitting long-range shots, so the win over Lee proved that the Titans can beat quality teams despite not playing their best game.
Mississippi State signee Morgan William, Katelynn Thomas, Camryn London, Kaihla Carter and Alyese Givens give Shades Valley (27-4) a plethora of scorers, and the Mounties proven to be dominant for much of the season. Shades Valley blasted Gardendale 76-20 in the sub-regional round.
“They’ve been very successful the last few years,” Gadsden City coach Jeremy Brooks said of the Mounties. “Defensively, they’re really athletic. They press, and in the half-court, they play man, 2-3 zone, 1-2-2 zone, they try to mix it up.
“Offensively, they’re very, very quick. They penetrate and score off the dribble. They have good shooters, too. Their point guard (William) is probably one of the quickest girls we have faced since I’ve been coaching.”
Gadsden City, which has reached six consecutive regional tournaments and seven of eight since the school’s inception, counters with plenty of talent of its own.
It starts with 6-foot-3 senior Dajia Williams. A double-double machine, Williams was The Gadsden Times’ All-Etowah County Player of the Year last season after averaging 12 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots per game. In addition, she was an honorable mention on the 6A All-State team and has signed a scholarship with Troy. She provides an intimidating interior presence for Brooks’ team.
Surrounding Williams is a cornucopia of guard talent. Southside transfer Haley Troup, who joined Williams on The Times’ All-County first team last year, is a freshman who can shoot, handle the ball, pass and rebound with equal aplomb.
Another freshman, Brooke Burns, runs the show at the point guard spot and also can put up points when needed.
Junior TK Blount is an aggressive defensive whiz who regularly is able to pick the pocket of whoever she is guarding.
Burns and Blount each were second-team All-Etowah County picks last year.
Taylor Tucker rounds out the formidable guard rotation for the Titans.
“The key for us, the one thing the last few opponents haven’t dealt with very good, is our inside play with Dajia Williams,” Brooks said. “Shades is more guard-oriented, though they do have one inside player with good size. This year, 6A seems more guard-heavy. Getting it inside to her (Williams), trying to get them in foul trouble and when they collapse on her that should open it up from the outside.
“We have a good shooting team. Taylor Tucker, Haley Troup and Brooke Burns probably shoot the ball as well as any players I’ve had.”
Today’s semifinal matchup is a rematch between the schools. In last year’s regional semifinals, Shades Valley topped Gadsden City 59-54, but Brooks said getting revenge does not play into how his team is looking at the game.
Coming off the win over the Generals, Brooks feels his team will be ready for the Mounties.
“We couldn’t have asked for any better game to help us out and get used to the pressure than playing Lee,” he said. “They play very similar styles, as far as the athletic ability and pressure defense.
“Shades Valley does have more skilled offensive players. We’re worried a bit more about them scoring.”
If the Titans advance, they will take on either No. 5 Huntsville or No. 8 Mountain Brook at 9 a.m. Friday for a berth in the state tournament.
TITANS AREN’T ALONE
Gadsden City is one of five area girls basketball teams to reach the regional round of the state playoffs.
In Class 1A, Spring Garden and Cedar Bluff reached the tourney. No. 5 Spring Garden (25-4) takes on No. 7 Skyline (24-4) at 3 p.m. today, while Cedar Bluff (14-15) plays Woodville (21-8) at 6 p.m.
The championship game is scheduled for 3:40 p.m. Friday.
In 2A, No. 8 Sand Rock (28-3) plays No. 1 Woodland (30-1) at 3 p.m. Wednesday, with the winner playing in the regional championship against either North Sand Mountain or Lanett at 9 a.m. Friday.
Plainview (21-7) is in the 3A regional semifinals and plays White Plains (21-8) at 9 a.m. Thursday.
The winner plays either No. 3 Holly Pond or Saks in the title game at 12:20 p.m. Saturday.