Carbon Hill one win away from state
by W. Brian Hale
Feb 24, 2012 | 1612 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Carbon Hill's Tylor Owens (11) looks to make a pass as Sheffield's Simon Ridgeway (33) defends during their game at the Northwest Regional Tournament on Thursday. Owens had 18 points in Carbon Hill's 46-41 overtime win. Photo by: Jason Clark
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HANCEVILLE — The Carbon Hill Bulldogs have been one of the hottest teams in Class 3A basketball — winning their last 14 games and going undefeated in postseason play.

None of their victories may have been as big as Thursday’s 46-41 overtime triumph over the Sheffield Bulldogs at the Northwest Regional Tournament at Wallace State’s Tom Drake Coliseum in Hanceville.

Carbon Hill — playing in its second consecutive regional tournament — advanced to the finals and faces Elkmont (22-7) in the championship game on Saturday at 2 p.m.

The winner moves on to the Final 4 in Birmingham.

Elkmont made its way to the championship game with a 72-62 overtime victory over Holly Pond on Thursday.

Carbon Hill coach Robert Epps said he was proud of his team’s perseverance and ability to come together in the final moments of the game to ensure their advance to the regional championship game.

“We were up against a very talented team in Sheffield — that is more athletic than we are. I thought that in the first half that we did a good job defensively, but lost that in the second half,” Epps said.

“But our kids stepped up and knocked down some shots — Gerald (Smith) is one of our best athletes and he goes out every night and puts us in a position where himself, our team and Tylor (Owens) can make good things happen for us. Our concept was very simple — get the ball into the hands of our best playmakers in a one-on-one matchup, and that’s what helped us get the win.”

Carbon Hill (25-7) dominated the first period with a relentless pressure defense and mounted an 8-0 run before Sheffield scored its first points of the contest as Carbon Hill took control at 14-2 after a quarter of play.

Sheffield picked up the tempo in the second period, forcing several Carbon Hill turnovers and going on a 7-2 run before Carbon Hill answered with a 7-0 run of its own — extending its lead to 14 with a 23-9 edge at halftime.

The third period saw Sheffield go on an 11-4 tear, outscoring Carbon Hill 15-6 to cut the lead to 29-24.

A seesaw battle developed in the fourth period, with Sheffield tying the game at 29-29 with 6:26 left in regulation. Although Carbon Hill momentarily regained control, Sheffield grabbed its first lead of the game at 33-32 with 3:07 remaining on the clock. Three more lead changes took place before regulation would end with the teams tied at 38-38 heading into overtime.

The overtime period belonged to Carbon Hill. Tylor Owens and Jacob Davis connected on four free throws in the final 52 seconds to preserve the Bulldogs’ 46-41 win.

Owens and Davis stated that the team’s mentality going into the overtime period was one of focus.

“We knew we were going to have to work hard, but there would not be any quit in us,” Owens said. “It was up to all of us to take control of the game and be in command of our own destiny.”

“It just felt like practice,” Davis said. “It’s a situation where you concentrate on what brought you to this level.”

Epps said the contribution of Davis was significant considering his recent absence due to illness.

“This year we have battled through injuries more than we did last year — with Jacob being a recent part of those absences that we’ve had to deal with. We’re just happy he is back with us as we’re a better team with him than without him,” Epps said.

Owens lead Carbon Hill with 18 points, also grabbing eight rebounds and three steals. Smith had a great game, scoring nine points, recording eight rebounds and blocking five shots. Davis and Daniel Woodard had six points each.