Downer for Dora
Anniston’s inside-outside punch too much
Sports Writer The Daily
Saturday, Feb 28, 2009
BIRMINGHAM — Dora High’s dance to the Class 4A title game
ended with a resounding thud.
Seventh-ranked Anniston was too strong for Dora inside, outside and everywhere
in between and cruised to a 79-49 rout at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic
Complex on Friday night. It marks Anniston’s second basketball
title ever after winning the 5A crown in 2002.
Anniston stormed out to a 27-11 run to close the first quarter and never
allowed Dora to assemble any momentum at all. Anniston pushed its lead
to 40-21 at the break and 60-35 by the end of the third.
The dominant performance by Anniston (27-6) prohibited sixth-ranked Dora
from even sniffing its first ever basketball championship.
Dora closes the season at 30-5.
“I can’t say enough about these young guys. We asked them for their
best effort and they gave their best effort,” said Dora coach Heath Burns. “Every
night that we played these guys went to war for us. Tonight (Friday) we played
a good team. There’s no doubt about it. They (Andalusia) were long and
athletic. My guys had a few opportunities where they could have laid down and
quit, but my guys fought.
“We talked at halftime about life and how times get tough and how we weren’t
going to bow down and let them whip us.”
Anniston’s rapid start was aided by the sweet outside stroke of
Tournament MVP Milton Curry from 3-point land and the solid play inside
from 6-foot-7 center Lorenzo Blair, who clogged up the lane and forced
Dora to alter its shots.
“Every shot we took was contested,” said Burns, whose team was 12-15
last season. “They had a lot to do with it because of how athletic they
are. Every possession they were longer than we were.”
Anniston’s Curry drained three of his four 3-pointers in the first
half as the team shot 46.9 percent (15-for-32). Curry finished with 25
points and five assists to garner MVP honors and pace a charge in which
all five Anniston starters finished in double figures.
Blair had a double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds to coincide
with five blocks, Marquez Safford was 3-for-3 from beyond the 3-point
line to finish with 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. Quintario
Hutchinson, the only Anniston starter who wasn’t a senior, added
13 points and Brenton Tolson contributed 11.
Dora was fully aware of the heighth advantage of Anniston, but the inside
presence of Blair was stronger than Dora had seen all season.
“We knew it was going to be tough. It’s been tough like that all
year because we’ve been outsized most of the time,” Burns said. “We
knew rebounds were probably going to be the key to the game.”
Anniston collected 20 offensive rebounds and won the rebounding battle
Anniston used its 20 offensive boards to produce 24 second-chance points
to Dora’s five.
While Anniston’s size was no surprise, its ability to shoot from
the field was as just as deadly for Dora. Anniston shot 50 percent (31-of-62)
from the field and 44.4 percent (8-of-18) from behind the 3-point arc
in the game.
“We didn’t plan on that happening. No. 23 (Curry) hit some big shots.
He didn’t miss many. In the first half, I don’t know the percentage
was, but it was outlandish,” Burns said. “They hit everything and
we couldn’t hit a shot. It did surprise us they shot well. We didn’t
plan on that. We had other plans.”
Dora shot 38.9 percent (21-of-54) from the field and 16.7 percent (2-for-12)
from 3-point land.
Jo-Jo Walls paced Dora with 15 points, four assists and three steals
in the loss. Kegan Tarver scored 11 of his 12 points in the second half
and Ja’Michael Swain collected 12 points, six rebounds and three
Anniston coach Schuessler Ware admitted it was nice his team could relax
after Friday’s fast start.
“Our guys did have a lot of fun. It took a lot of stress off of me. Those
close ones wear on you,” Ware said. “We knew we had a size advantage,
but that didn’t mean we were going to take anything for granted. You’ve
still got to focus on the fundamentals and box out.” Despite Anniston’s
early surge, Blair knew Dora wasn’t going to fold.
“We knew they weren’t going to lay down. They were here for a reason.
We still had to come out and play smart and focused,” Blair said. “We
still felt we were the best team and showed it. We knew the game was already
ours in the second quarter.”
Safford joined Blair and Curry on the All-Tournament Team for Anniston.
Tarver and Walls were Dora’s All-Tournament representatives along
with Andalusia’s Nico Johnson.
Even though Dora was 12-15 last season, the Bulldogs started the 2008-09
season with high expectations around the county. The team got stronger
in the postseason and captured three thrilling wins over a week’s
span to make its first appearance in Birmingham since 2000.
The ride turned frustrating in the championship affair, but the school
advanced to its deepest point yet in its basketball history.
“It does mean a lot. We just worked hard. It almost ended as a perfect
season,” said Tarver, who was the Northwest Regional 4A MVP last week. “We
are going to work hard and try to get back here next year.”
The Bulldogs lose only one starter, B.K. Smith, to graduation.
The other Dora seniors are: Zach Gaines, Anthony Jackson and Ronnie Driver.