After spending two years as champions of the Elmore County Tournament, the Tallassee boys basketball team was finally knocked off in Friday’s semifinal matchup with Wetumpka. The Tigers led for most of the night but after seeing two starting guards foul out early in the fourth quarter, they failed to find any other answers as Wetumpka erased its deficit and scored 20 fourth-quarter points from the foul line to secure a 68-63 win and a spot in Saturday’s championship game.
Wetumpka (8-4) was knocked out of the previous two county tournaments by the Tigers and it was clear that was a motivating factor this week.
“Our guys actually brought that up,” Wetumpka coach Byron Gaskin said. “That was big motivation for us. We wanted to get over that hump in the county tournament so that’s something I’m proud of and it’s something our guys are excited about.”
Robert Rose knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:15 to go in the game to cut Wetumpka’s deficit to three points and that would be the team’s last made field goal of the night. However, the offense kept up its effort from the free throw line as Wetumpka scored its final 13 points from the stripe, including seven from Rose who finished with a team-high 17 points. Michael Bass finished with eight points, all coming at the free throw line.
“We have guys that practice it all the time so when guys like Rob or Mike step up to the line, I’m not worried about them making it,” Gaskin said. “They stepped up and knocked them down.”
Tallassee (3-3) played most of the second half without leading scorer and point guard Jamicah Humphery due to foul trouble. He picked up his fourth less than a minute into the third quarter and was called for a charge less than a minute after returning to the court in the fourth quarter to foul out with 6:34 to go in the game.
Jalyn Daniels picked up the slack and ended up leading all players with 20 points but he suffered the same fate as his teammate, fouling out on an offensive foul with 4:17 left in the fourth.
“We had to keep attacking and keep the pressure on them,” Gaskin said. “Having their best ball handlers go out, that put us in a mode where we could keep attacking the whole time.”
Wetumpka did just that, forcing five turnovers in the final four minutes which all led to points from the line. Tallassee finished the game with 18 turnovers.
“I thought we played pretty well in spurts but we have to take care of the ball,” Tallassee coach Keiven Mixson said. “Give Wetumpka credit though, they saw our young guards kind of struggling so they jumped on it.”
The Tigers had not seen competition for over three weeks since defeating John Carroll before the holiday break. However, Mixson said that should not have had any effect on his players against Wetumpka.
“We had a three-week break but we aren’t going to use any excuses,” Mixson said. “We just have to execute. We have to hit shots when it’s time to hit shots. They made the shots they needed to hit and we didn’t.”
Wetumpka advances to play Stanhope Elmore in the county tournament final which is slated to start at approximately 3:30 p.m.
“We have to keep hydrated and really just come back and be ready again,” Gaskin said. “They’re going to be sitting there fresh and we may be a little gassed but this is what playoffs is going to be about. This is the experience we need going forward so we are looking forward to that challenge.”