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Judgment day for Dora

Sports Writer The Daily Mountain Eagle
Friday, Feb 27, 2009

Dora head basketball coach Heath Burns woke up Thursday morning and attempted to soak it all in.

Reflect on the fact that he and the Bulldogs are in the Class 4A title game today at 8 p.m.

Ponder on the thought that one more win for Dora hands the school its first ever basketball championship after multiple deep postseason trips ended in disappointments.

The sixth-ranked Bulldogs are one win away from making history, and they’ll learn their fate today as they oppose seventh-ranked Anniston to wrap up the action at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Complex.

“Who in the world would have thought a team which went 12-15 just a season ago would be playing in a state championship game? It’s an honor to get here because I’ve got players and a coaching staff that has worked hard to get here,” said Burns, who is in his second year with the team. “I also consider it an honor to go to battle with these guys. We’ve got 32 more minutes of basketball. We want to make sure our effort is unbelievable. We don’t want to waste any second or minute of a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“I feel like our guys are going to step up to the challenge and give an effort that will make Walker County proud.”

Tonight’s title game will be televised locally on WOTM Channel 6 via feed from CBS 42. The Final Four radio feed can also be heard locally on Country Legends 88.5 FM and WJLX 1240 AM.

Dora (30-4) is planning another pep rally at the school’s gymnasium today at 8:15 a.m. The Bulldogs will then eat breakfast as a team in town before heading to Birmingham to prepare for the championship affair. Dora advanced to the championship game with a 45-43 triumph on Wednesday morning over Ramsay.

Ja’Michael Swain’s putback off a Michael Forest 3-point attempt with 5.2 seconds remaining was the difference in the game.

It capped off a three-game postseason stretch in which the Bulldogs have prevailed in the final minute, beating Columbia, Fayette County and Ramsay by seven combined points.

Kegan Tarver helped guide Dora past Ramsay with 15 points, including a 9-of-12 performance from the free throw line. Forest added 11 points.

Tonight’s foe, Anniston, knocked off top-ranked Andalusia on Wednesday with a 79-68 win. Anniston had four players crack double digits in the win. Guard Milton Curry paced the Bulldogs with 22 points, Marquez Safford had 20, Quintario Hutchinson added 16 and Brenton Tolson had 14.

Anniston’s front line boasts 6-foot-7 Lorenzo Blair and two other forwards listed at 6-foot-4.

On the other hand, Dora’s Forest is listed at 6-foot-3 to account for Dora’s tallest player.

“The Blair kid who’s 6-foot-7 is an athlete. He runs the floor and can jump. He’s one guy we are definitely going to have to keep an eye on and box out,” Burns said. “They are definitely bigger than we are. They’ve got several guys we’re definitely going to have to get a butt on and box out.”

Anniston isn’t shy to play a fast-paced game either.

“They can really get up and down the floor. They really depend on their defense to create opportunities to run the break. Anniston is one of the better teams that I’ve seen in any classification this year,” Burns said. “They get right up under your chin and guard you. They are fast. They are a good basketball team, both offensively and defensively.”

Burns said one key to Dora’s run has been its humbleness and willingness to work together as a unit through thick and thin. He said each person on the Bulldogs roster voiced their opinion on Thursday about how much the season has impacted them and how each individual has played an integral role in the run to the ultimate game the Bulldogs longed for in the offseason.

“Chemistry is the key to entire thing. It’s been special here at the end of the season when it easily could have went the other direction. When you lose a few games you think you shouldn’t lose, you can react in a couple of ways. We didn’t let things go south or continue to point fingers or argue,” Burns said. “We formed together as a team and have stood united through this thing. These guys love basketball, but more importantly they love each other.”

While the journey to Birmingham has been memorable, the Bulldogs want to assure the final step ends with a bang.

“It’s going to be a fun night. Both teams are here for a reason. We aren’t going to go be intimidated; we are going in to win one last basketball game,” Burns said. “We’re going to make sure we play the hardest and most quality 32 minutes of our lives.”


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