Cedar Bluff faces Pickens County for 1A state title
Wed. February 29, 2012 at 11:21 p.m. | By Andrew Schmidt Sports Writer
Cedar Bluff's DeAngelo Hardy puts up a shot during Tuesday's Class 1A semifinal win over St. Jude. (Photo by Nick Johnston | Gadsden Times)
A year after their classic battle for the state championship, Cedar Bluff and Pickens County will do it again.
The two teams will meet today in a 5:30 p.m. tipoff at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex to settle the boys Class 1A state basketball championship.
Tonight’s game is a rematch from last season, when Pickens County lifted the blue state title trophy after a 70-62 overtime victory over the Tigers.
That game, though, was a little bit more expected than this year’s version.
The 2011 contest featured the state’s No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams in the Tornadoes and Tigers, respectively. This year, Pickens County is once again the top-rated 1A team in the state and brings a 28-5 record into today’s game. Cedar Bluff, however, enters unranked after adjusting to the off-season losses of top scorers Tyric Scales and Marcus Reese. In fact, the Tigers (20-14) lost in their area tournament and had to hit the road for sub-regionals before advancing to the Northeast Regional at Jacksonville.
Junior guard DeAngelo Hardy, one of the returning stars from last year’s state runner-up squad, was the Northeast Regional MVP for the second year in a row, but had a bit of an off game — at least by his standards — in the semifinals with 13 points while battling foul trouble. Terrance Scales stepped up in Hardy’s stead to lead the Tigers with 24 points and 14 rebounds in a 64-58 win over second-ranked St. Jude.
Cedar Bluff also got a strong contribution in the semifinal win from Evan McBurnett, who finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
The Tigers will need all hands on board today against the Tornadoes if they hope to pull of their second straight upset and claim a state title.
Pickens County returns four players who started in last year’s title game in Lajuan Doss, Demarko Hall, Nicholas Stewart and Warren Betts.
The Tornadoes used their athletic prowess to suffocate the Tigers into 28 turnovers with full-court pressure defense last season, so the ball-handling of Hardy, Scales, Rihied Harris and Frederick Hackett will be critical to Cedar Bluff’s success.
If the Tigers were able to prevail, it would be a rare defeat for Pickens County against 1A competition. The Tornadoes have not lost to another 1A team in the past two seasons. Each of the Pickens County losses this year have come to a school in Class 3A or higher.