He came alive in the second half.
Smith scored 14 points, including eight in the fourth quarter, as the Bulldogs fought back from a double-digit deficit to knock off Corner 48-40 in their Class 4A, Area 8 opener at Dora High School.
The Yellow Jackets led by as many as 11 points in the first half, taking advantage of Smith’s foul trouble. Once Smith hit the court in the second half, Corner’s lead began shrinking. Fifth-ranked Carbon Hill finally caught Corner midway through the fourth quarter and knocked down eight consecutive free throws in the final 1:14 to seal the win.
“We let them be the aggressor in the first half,” Carbon Hill coach Robert Epps said. “We played a lot harder in the second half. We finally calmed down and started running our offense.”
Next up for Carbon Hill is a fourth meeting with cross-county rival Dora. The teams play at 7 p.m. on Monday in the area tournament championship game. Dora knocked off Oak Grove 81-61 in Friday’s area tournament nightcap.
Carbon Hill and Dora both play sub-regional playoff games next week. Monday’s winner hosts a sub-regional game while the loser travels.
On Friday, Corner jumped out to a 20-9 second-quarter lead thanks to a 9-0 run to start the period. Carbon Hill, which scored just six points in the second quarter, trailed 24-15 at the half.
Carbon Hill (21-8) started the third quarter with six straight points. Isaac Slaton got the run started, Daniel Woodard added a basket and Smith got on the board for his first points of the game to cut the gap to 24-21 with 5:20 left in the third quarter. Corner opened the lead back to six points later in the quarter after baskets by Dylan Hand and Blake Byrd.
The Yellow Jackets led 32-28 going into the fourth quarter.
Carbon Hill opened the final quarter with a 7-0 run to take the lead. The Bulldogs drew even after baskets by Woodard and Smith. A 3-pointer from Garrett Kirkland put the Bulldogs on top 35-32 with 5:52 left.
Corner didn’t go down easily. The Jackets regained the lead at 36-35 after a Sanford jumper with 2:56 left. Kirkland hit an NBA-range 3-pointer to put the Bulldogs up 38-36 and Zac Pate notched the score yet again with a pair of free throws with 2:10 left.
From there, it was all Carbon Hill.
Smith hit a pair of free throws with 1:14 left and hit a floater in the lane 20 seconds later for a 42-38 lead. Woodard added a pair of free throws and Smith knocked down the last four free throws to seal the victory.
Smith led Carbon Hill with 14 points.
“It’s no secret. Gerald is our best player. How he is going determines how we do,” Epps said.
Kirkland added 13 points while Woodard put in nine, Slaton had six, Jon Bray added four and Ryan Simerly had two for Carbon Hill.
For Corner, Byrd had 14 points and Sanford added 10.
Dora 81, Oak Grove 61
Dora’s offense proved too much for Oak Grove as the Bulldogs advanced to Monday’s area tournament championship game with a 81-61 rout of the Tigers.
The Bulldogs (17-7) got points from 13 different players on the night.
Dora rushed out to a 25-16 lead after the first quarter and added to the advantage through the next two quarters. The Bulldogs were up 47-33 at the half and 70-47 going into the fourth quarter.
DeAngelo Pendleton led the Bulldogs with 14 points, four steals and three assists, Kenton Petties and Keliel James each had nine points, Logan Roberts had eight, Robert Johnson, Austin Johnson and Caleb May each added six, Deionte Smith and Rudy Serricchio each had five points, Darian Ramsey and Devonta Gosha both had four, Ja’Corian Parker put in three and Darious Davis had two.
“I am really proud of the team effort tonight,” Dora coach Michael Bridges said. “My guys went out there and took care of business. Everyone on the team got a chance to contribute, and 13 of 14 guys put up points. We’re looking forward to the challenge Monday against Carbon Hill. It’s going to be a very competitive game.”
Dora and Carbon Hill split regular-season games with each team winning at home. Carbon Hill holds a 2-1 series lead thanks to a come-from-behind 62-54 victory over Dora in the semifinals of the Walker County Tournament.
Class 5A, Area 14 Tournament
Walker 60, Curry 50
Walker needed three tries to beat Curry this season.
The Vikings finally got the best of the Yellow Jackets on Friday, beating Curry 60-50 in their Class 5A, Area 14 Tournament game at Mortimer Jordan High School.
Walker got big outings from both Kenyatta Woods and Matthew McCay as the Vikings earned a spot in the sub-regional round of the state playoffs. The Vikings (6-15) will take on Mortimer Jordan at 7 p.m. Monday for the area tournament title. The winner will host a sub-regional game next week while the loser will travel.
Against Curry, the Vikings held a slim 13-11 lead after the opening quarter and pushed their lead to 31-23 at the half. Walker took a 40-32 advantage into the final quarter.
Woods, a freshman, finished with a game-high 19 points while McCants, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, added 17 points and seven rebounds. Jonathan McCants added eight points, Denzell Daley put in six and both Austin Graham and Michael Bridges added five points.
Curry (12-14), which made just 3 of 20 three-pointers on the night, was led by Jaxon Aaron, who was 6 for 6 from the field and finished with 17 points. Alex Odom made 2 of 3 from beyond the 3-point arc and finished with 16 points while Jarrod Owens added 10 points. Wesley Key finished with five points and Spencer Fikes added two.
In games involving other area teams:
Cordova and Winston County both dropped games in the Class 3A, Area 14 Tournament at Hamilton. The Blue Devils, the tournament’s No. 4 seed, played No. 1 Hamilton tough in a 57-46 loss while Winston County fell to Winfield 68-31.
Oakman saw its season come to an end in the Class 2A, Area 14 Tournament at Cold Springs High School on Friday. The Wildcats fell to Sulligent 55-43. Sulligent takes on Cold Springs in Monday’s tournament finale.
Meek dropped its Class 1A, Area 14 Tournament opener to Falkville 53-40, bringing an end to the Tigers’ season. Falkville plays Decatur Heritage at 7 p.m. Monday in the area tournament championship game.