ECHS locks up 3-seed in area tourneyPublished 4:14pm Wednesday, January 22, 2014
The Elmore County Panthers locked up the Class 4A, Area 6 tournament three-seed Friday with a 56-51 win over the Tallassee Tigers on Senior Night.
With the win, the Panthers (7-9, 4-3) set up a rematch with the Tigers (7-6, 5-2) on Feb. 7 at the area number one seed Dallas County with a spot in the state playoffs on the line. By that time, Tallassee hopes to have its two starters, Everett Harris and LaMichael Denmark, who missed the area contest Friday.
Elmore County freshman point guard Neal Cook set the tempo early in the matchup, driving through the Tigers’ zone defense with the absence of his counterpart, Harris, on the floor, and scoring nine before the break.
“He did a lot of finishing,” Panther head coach Wilbur Terrell said of Cook. “Four or five ballgames ago, he started penetrating real good, but he wasn’t finishing. We kind of talked about it in practice a few times, and he’s getting better. They had trouble trying to stay with him. He’s quick. Now, they made some changes at halftime that made sure they kept him from penetrating, and it slowed him down some. But he still had a decent second half. Defensively, he stepped up in the first half. Had a lot of key steals. He’s starting to come around.”
Cook finished with 12.
Tallassee head coach Will Glaze said his team made the necessary adjustments without two starters, but just came up short.
“They played hard,” Glaze said of his boys. “We just didn’t make shots when we needed to and had some turnovers. We’re down to eight guys right now, they played their butts off. When we get those two guys back, we’ll be fine. Elmore County, they’ve had some big wins recently. They beat Childersburg. We’re the two-three game for sure, that was their fourth area win. We’ll see them again Feb. 7 in Plantersville.”
With Cook orchestrating, ECHS outscored the Tigers 10-4 in the opening quarter. Panther sophomore guard Mikell Floyd capped a 7-0 run with 1:45 left in the half with a three-point that stretched his team’s lead to 22-15.
In the first half, Elmore County and Tallassee neutralized the others’ leading scorer. Tiger D’Angelo Parker had just three points and Javon Moore netted two. But the two broke out in the third and fourth periods, with Parker recording 14 and Moore adding 15.
“In our 13 games, I’m pretty sure he’s been our leading scorer in nine or 10 of those games,” Glaze said of Parker. “D’Angelo is solid. He averages about 20 a game. He just a guy that’s a double-double machine. He gives me all he has for about 32 minutes a game. I just can’t afford to have him off the court. He’s 6-foot-1 and plays like he’s 6-foot-6. A phenomenal athlete, and we wouldn’t be where we were without him.”
Terrell lauded Moore’s decision-making coming down the stretch in the game that helped lift the Panthers.
“I thought (Moore’s) decision-making was better than I’ve seen it in all the years he’s been playing for me,” Terrell said. “A lot of really key decisions he made, defensively and offensively.”
Winning its third consecutive area game, Terrell said he hoped his team is reaching maximum potential at the right time.
“It’s huge, a really good momentum builder for us. We got a couple of games that’s not area games but we can work on some more stuff. Hopefully, we’re gelling at the right time, peaking at the right time.”
Elmore County’s Sergio Birmingham scored 12.
Keon Jones and Felix Kennebrew tallied 13 and 10 respectively for Tallassee.