Whatever the reason, Anniston coach Schuessler Ware didn’t get the four-quarter, 32-minute performance he wanted in the Bulldogs’ sub-regional game Saturday.
But Anniston sure looked good for the final 20 minutes and surged into today’s Northeast Regional with an 84-46 rout.
“We were real sluggish, had a very slow start,” Ware said. “It’s something we’ve been working on.
“I don’t know why we always play like that. It’s nothing intentional, but it’s like I tell the kids. We’ve got to play 32 minutes.”
Maybe the defending Class 4A champions and top-ranked Bulldogs (22-9) can play the complete game in Thursday’s 1:30 p.m. regional semifinal against Cherokee County in Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews Coliseum.
For now, Anniston’s three-quarter efforts are plenty effective.
The victory in Saturday’s sub-regional game extended the Bulldogs’ winning streak to seven games after a loss to Saks in the Calhoun County Tournament semifinals. Anniston avenged that loss, beating Saks 63-59 in Monday’s Area 9 final.
The Bulldogs’ other six victories in the current streak came by an average margin of 28.2 points. That included a 109-38 laugher over Lincoln in their Area 9 tourney opener.
For a quarter and a half of Saturday’s game, it looked like St. Clair County would give Anniston a tough slog. The Saints used a 2-3 zone and half-court approach on offense to slow the Bulldogs.
“We knew we couldn’t get in a running game with them,” St. Clair County coach George Bates said. “We wanted to slow the ballgame down without going against what we believe in, so we scaled back certain things on our press to make them have to use some clock and slow them down.”
It worked through the four-minute mark of the second quarter, when two Jared Lee free throws pulled St. Clair County to within 19-16.
Then Anniston went bye-bye.
Jabrielle Snodgress hit one of his four 3-pointers en route to a game-high 27 points, and the Bulldogs outscored the Saints 12-2 for the rest of the quarter.
St. Clair County managed one Danny Moore free throw through the first four minutes of the second quarter. By the time Lee scored the Saints’ first field goal in nearly eight minutes, Anniston led 45-21.
Anniston held St. Clair County to seven second-quarter points and just 10 over a quarter and a half, extending into the third quarter.
That same stretch saw the Saints commit 11 of their 28 turnovers. Anniston finished with 22 steals.
“We just picked the pressure up on defense,” said Anniston guard Michael Rush, who tied forward Quintarius Hutchison for team-high honors with four steals
Rush finished with 18 points and 10 assists. Darius Taylor turned in 13 points and a team-high 10 rebounds, and Hutchison added four blocks to go with his eight points.
Darius Crump led St. Clair County with 12 points.
The Saints, runners-up in Area 10, finished 10-18 but got needed postseason experience.
“No one on this team had ever been (this far) in the playoffs,” Bates said. “We got a chance to see what it’s like to play a champion. They’re still the defending champions.
“I’m proud of the kids. We’ve only got two seniors, so we’re going to use it as a stepping stone for our younger guys.”