Carbon Hill earns spot in title game
by W. Brian Hale
Mar 01, 2012 | 1789 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Carbon Hill's Jake Davis floats to the rim during the Bulldogs' win over Montgomery Academy at the Final Four at the BJCC. The Bulldogs take on Greensboro at 7:30 p.m. Friday for the state title. Photo by: Jason Clark
Carbon Hill's Jake Davis floats to the rim during the Bulldogs' win over Montgomery Academy at the Final Four at the BJCC. The Bulldogs take on Greensboro at 7:30 p.m. Friday for the state title. Photo by: Jason Clark
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BIRMINGHAM — The 2011-12 Carbon Hill Bulldogs have made history as the school’s first team to earn the opportunity to compete for the Class 3A State Championship after clinching a spot in the title game with Wednesday’s 56-47 semifinal victory over the Montgomery Academy Eagles at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center (BJCC).

The Bulldogs’ Final Four triumph was the program’s 16th consecutive win, extending their season record to 27-7. The victory sets up a rematch with last year’s champion Greensboro (27-6) — who defeated the Bulldogs 58-46 in the 2010-11 Final Four semifinals.

Friday’s championship game tips off at 7:30 p.m. from the BJCC.

“We had a very good opponent in Montgomery Academy — their kids really came out and played hard. Thankfully our guys came out and matched their intensity,” Carbon Hill coach Robert Epps said.

Tylor Owens had one of the best games of this career, scoring 30 points by connecting on 8 of 12 field goals.

His play at the free-throw line was equally impressive, hitting 14 of 18 shots — including two baskets in the final 18 seconds of the game that would start a chant of “MVP! MVP!” from the Carbon Hill student section.

Owens stated that being able to play in the state championship game is a dream come true and the culmination of a long journey for his team and himself.

“I’ve been to the regionals at Wallace State ever since I was a freshman,” Owens said. “Last year with our team at Carbon Hill, we made it here to the semi-finals — which was kind of a shocker, but we didn’t win. This year, we want to win it all”

“We needed all of Tylor’s 30 points — during the course of the season, what ever we needed of him to win, he did,” Epps said. “If we need him to score a lot, he does it. If we need him to facilitate and get the other guys involved, he’s able to do that. I feel that he is the best point guard in the state because of the fact that he can not only score, but he runs the team for us — like a coach on the floor.”

Carbon Hill’s Gerald Smith had a solid game, contributing 13 points, while recording seven rebounds and one blocked shot. Daniel Woodard scored five points, but his defensive contributions of six rebounds, one blocked shot and forcing two turnovers drew his coach’s praise.

“Daniel’s always had great scoring ability — he used to lead us in points every night when he played on the B-Team,” Epps said. “At his first practice with us, I told him if he planned on playing he would need to play defense — he took that to heart and has stepped up for us defensively this season. Tonight was no exception — he made important plays that helped us greatly.”

The teams were deadlocked at a 12-12 tie with one minute left in the first period before Smith hit a layup at the 10 second mark to allow Carbon Hill pull ahead 14-12 at the quarter’s conclusion.

Three lead changes took place in the second period, with the Bulldogs retaining a two-point lead going into the half after Owens connected on two free-throw shots.

After the Eagles took a 28-25 lead early in the third period, the Bulldogs went on an 11-1 run to close with a 36-29 edge. Montgomery Academy drew within a point at the 4:49 mark in the fourth period, 40-39, before Carbon Hill would close the remainder of the game on a 16-8 run to help secure their 56-47 victory.

Davis had four points for Carbon Hill while Kevin Pate and Garrett Kirkland had two points apiece.

For Montgomery Academy, Josh Thomas had 19 points and Bo Starke put in 12.