Pickens County showed why its one of the top teams in the state, beating Parrish 82-48 at Wallace State-Hanceville’s Tom Drake Coliseum to earn a spot in next week’s Final Four in Birmingham.
“We’ve played them four times and every time we played them, they beat us that bad,” said first-year Parrish coach Michael Beck, who guided the Tornadoes to their first ever regional appearance. “It didn’t matter what we did today. Pickens County is a very, very good team and it’s going to take somebody really good to beat them, even if they have a bad night.”
On Saturday, Pickens County (28-1) wasted no time taking control, jumping out to a 23-11 lead after the first quarter. Pickens County hit its stride in the second quarter behind Lajuan Doss and Demarko Hall. The duo led the team to a 52-23 halftime lead. Hall had 11 first-half points while Doss added 10. A total of eight Pickens County players scored in the opening half.
Pickens County’s starters played sparingly in the second half. Parrish trailed 68-42 going into the fourth quarter.
Pickens County, which beat Parrish by an average of 45 points in its first three meetings, dominated the stat sheet. The team connected on nine 3-pointers and got 32 points off the bench.
Nicholas Stewart led Pickens County with 15 points, Doss and Kiloe Cole each had 13 and Hall put in 11.
Pickens County, the Class 2A state champion last year, has now won 13 straight games since its only setback, a 59-54 loss to Class 4A Greene County. Over the last two seasons, the team is 54-3, including an 88-86 triple overtime win over Houston County in last year’s 2A title game.
For Parrish (13-17), Wesley Smith hit all four of the teams’ 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 17 points, Jermichael Harris added 10 points, four rebounds and three assists, Levi Hitt and Luke Barnes each had six points and eight rebounds, Reginald Harris put in four points, Brodrick Sanders scored three points and Jeremy Piper added two.
Both Smith and Jermichael Harris made the All-Tournament team from Parrish.
Pickens County’s Doss was the tournament MVP.
Saturday’s loss ended an incredible late-season run by Parrish.
Parrish knocked off South Lamar 63-37 in the area tournament. After losing to Pickens County in the Area 9 championship game, Parrish followed with a 74-66 upset win at Meek in a sub-region matchup. Once at Wallace State, the Tornadoes advanced to the state’s final eight with a 60-57 win over defending regional champion R.A. Hubbard.
“At the first of the year, we couldn’t rebound, we couldn’t shoot free throws and we couldn’t shoot layups,” Beck said. “We started working on that in practice and we became a much better team because the guys bought into it. We’ve never been this far before. The school really got behind us late in the year. I think this is a building block for our program.”
Notes: Three Parrish seniors wrapped up their careers Saturday: Wesley Smith, Levi Hitt and Luke Barnes. Pickens County shot 41 percent from the field (31-of-75) while Parrish shot 36 percent (21-of-59). Parrish’s Smith was 4-of-10 from 3-point range while the rest of the team was 0-for-13. Pickens County outrebounded Parrish 51 to 36. Pickens County forced 17 turnovers and had 10 steals while had four steals and forced 10 turnovers. Pickens County had 25 points off turnovers compared to just five for Parrish. Parrish was one of two boys teams in the state to reach the final 8, with a losing record, Class 6A Vestavia Hills was the other.