Bulldogs reach new heights under Epps
by Johnathan Bentley
Apr 09, 2011 | 1964 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Carbon Hill coach Robert Epps led the Bulldogs to the Final Four for the third time in school history and the first time in 43 years.
Carbon Hill coach Robert Epps led the Bulldogs to the Final Four for the third time in school history and the first time in 43 years.
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Robert Epps inherited a rock-bottom basketball program nine years ago at Carbon Hill.

The Bulldogs’ boys basketball team wasn’t just on a losing streak, it was challenging the state record for consecutive losses.

Carbon Hill’s boys are on the opposite end of the spectrum these days following a school-record 30 wins and a trip to the state Final Four for the first time in decades.

Epps is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s 2010-11 Boys Coach of the Year. Earlier this month he was named the Class 3A Coach of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.

Carbon Hill won county, area and regional titles on its way to Birmingham before losing to eventual state champion Greensboro at the BJCC.

Epps came to Carbon Hill prior to the 2002-03 season. He took over a team that had lost more than 80 consecutive games dating back to 1999. His first team picked up five wins and the Bulldogs have improved steadily since.

Prior to this year, the Bulldogs hadn’t been to the regional tournament since advancing three straight years (1996-1998).

Over the previous two seasons, Carbon Hill came close to earning a spot in the regional tournament, falling one win short both times.

Early into the 2010-11 season, it was clear that Carbon Hill had a special group on the floor. Along with returning scorer Kolton Nichols, Epps added freshman Gerald Smith to the mix for his first full varsity season as well as transfers Tylor Owens and Conner Young and sophomore starting guard Blaine Eads. The Bulldogs also benefited from a strong bench, including seniors David Mote, Jacob Hudson and Landon Herron.

The group meshed instantly on the court and started the season with a 23-game winning streak while rocketing up the Class 3A state rankings.

“We had great chemistry,” Epps said. “It was the best chemistry I’ve had since I’ve been at Carbon Hill. There was nobody moaning and griping. You don’t have many years like that. It was a very enjoyable season.”

During the winning streak, Carbon Hill’s average margin of victory was 27 points, including a season-high 75-point win over Oakman. Class 5A Pleasant Grove ended Carbon Hill’s winning streak in early February, but the Bulldogs bounced back with a seven-game winning streak that carried the team deep into the playoffs.

Despite losing Nichols, one of the team’s top scorers, to a broken hand in the area tournament, Carbon Hill still overwhelmed the competition, routing Hamilton (58-37) for the area tournament title and beating Hanceville (53-37) in a sub-regional game.

At the Northwest Regional Tournament, Epps’ group pulled away from both Clements (55-41) and Lauderdale County (49-39) late in the fourth quarter to pick up the school’s first ever Northwest Regional Tournament title. Owens was named the tournament MVP and Young joined him on the All-Tournament team.

Carbon Hill’s season came to an end in a 58-46 decision against eventual state champion Greensboro. The Bulldogs kept the game close despite shooting an uncharacteristic 29 percent from the field in the loss.