The area championships usually equate to the best basketball seen all season. That much was true Saturday night in Wetumpka.
Raucous crowds, rattling stands, last second shots and an all-out will to win unfolded before fans Saturday night. Even so, it was the Indians leaving with the 72-68 win over Benjamin Russell. But there was a lot that unfolded in the five quarters of play.
The game appeared to be over in the fourth quarter but the Wildcats were just able to put up a put back shot to continue the game for another four minutes. That came just off the misses from Quez Thompson at the stripe that left them in a desperate state. But that was just the ending.
The opening of the game found the Wildcats behind early and Wetumpka capitalized putting points on the board.
The first points of the game found Wetumpka on the floor knocking down shots that the Wildcats couldn’t. It took a pair of free throw attempts to get the Wildcats on the board but it was LaBronski McKinney and Malcolm Simmons that started the game off offensively. Those free throws were enough for the Wildcats to wake up while Wetumpka was powered mostly by Micheal Bass’ six points.
Fouls were the issue for both sides as each team posted seven on the board. Although it was a consistent issue for the Wildcats as their defense relied on heavy pressure while the Indians wanted to stymie any momentum as quickly as possible.
As the Wildcats kept drawing fouls from the Indians, the deficit shrunk and Corey Millner drew the 1-and-1 and cashed in to give Benjamin Russell the 9-8 lead into the second quarter.
Fouls on the Indians didn’t truly affect the program as it could have. Wetumpka sent the Wildcats to the line enough times but of the 10 shots at the stripe, Benjamin Russell managed to only score on two of them. The Indians managed to post 18 points in the second quarter with 10 of them off the hand of LaCorey Marshall. It was enough for the Indians to grab an 11-point lead but the Wildcats weren’t out of it either.
A highlight of the second quarter was Thompson draining a buzzer beating three from beyond half court but the Indians held a 26-21 lead. Impressively enough, the Indians were playing through 13 team fouls in the first half.
Momentum carried over to the second half briefly as Benjamin Russell was able to give their fans something to cheer about. Qua Smith, Thompson and Ty Williams knocked down three-pointers to give Wetumpka a run for the lead but it didn’t come up as cleanly as the Wildcats would have wanted.
Wetumpka fended off the attack when Benjamin Russell tied the game at 30-30. When the Indians turned to a full-court press, the Wildcats struggled to limit the turnovers but the fourth quarter loomed.
A 43-37 score showed Wetumpka on thin ice but the Wildcats were just a tad out of position to make anything significant happen.
Even so, the Wildcats were 3-for-8 at the line during the final quarter of regulation, it was something that could have been the determining factor of the win Saturday but the program had to wait on Smith to cash in on a put backer after Thompson missed his free throws to tie the game up and send it into overtime.
Fouls reared their head in overtime. Wetumpka had a better position on the board and the Wildcats lost Millner early in the going. The difference came down to free throws with time slowly winding down despite exhibiting an ability to make the difference up.
Even a late three-pointer to try and send them to the lead from Williams wasn’t fated to land.
Wetumpka saw the time expire and earn their title while the Wildcats took the runner-up placement.
Benjamin Russell will travel on Tuesday for the first round of the state tournament while the Indians will benefit from being at home.