Aliceville Punches Ticket to the Final Four
The Aliceville Yellow Jackets defeated the Cornerstone School of Birmingham Eagles 63-49 in the Class 2 AHSAA Regional Final. The Yellow Jackets had five players in double digits, led by All-Tournament MVP Jatavis Colvin's 15 points, followed by Quadarian Speight's 13 points, Keanthony Wilder's 11 points, Tyquan Simon and Tyjarian Williams' ten points. Mekhi Fitts led Cornerstone with nine points, 11 rebounds, three steals, four assists, and four blocks.
Aliceville fans swarmed to Bill Harris Arena in full force. It felt like the entire town of Aliceville was in Birmingham. There was a lot of yellow and blue at the complex which aided the team as they fed off the energy from their fans.
Both teams played quickly and aggressively in the opening quarter. Aliceville enjoys attacking the rim and getting out on fast-breaks. Fitts made that challenging in the first half by getting all of his blocks in that period.
Despite having some difficulty getting to the rim against Fitts, Aliceville did not back down. The Yellow Jackets were able to get out and run on the Eagles' missed jumpers. Williams, Simon, and Speights became physical with Fitts and found ways to finish around the rim and get offensive boards.
In the first minutes of the game, Colvin and Wilder established the offensive tempo. Both players were aggressively attacking the basket, hitting mid-range shots and shooting difficult shots with confidence. Colvin never lacks confidence and he continues to take shots even when they don't connect. Despite being listed at 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds, Speights handled Fitts very well, especially in the second half.
The Yellow Jackets were excellent at getting to the foul line throughout the contest. They attempted 25 free throws and made 14 of them. Cornerstone's early three-point shooting was a strength. They made five throughout the contest, three of which came in the first half.
The major story of the game was Aliceville's defense. Wilder had three steals for the Yellow Jackets, while Colvin, Jordan Sterling, and Tre'Shawn Matthews each pitched in two. Aliceville also outnumbered Cornerstone in rebounding with 47 to Cornerstone's 31.
When the Eagles' shots were not falling in the third quarter, Aliceville's ability to take better care of the ball and the intensity generated by their fans, the game began to draw away from them. The Yellow Jackets took off, and the party started.
Aliceville head coach Chris Walker praised his team's performance and emphasized the importance of his veteran players to their victory.
"We'll do whatever it takes," Walker said. "A lot of the time, they don't like it when I yell at them, even if it's not their fault. These are the vets we are going to ride the whole way. They must lead in both positive and negative situations. For the most part, they answered."
Walker talked about what it will take to bring Aliceville's first state championship this season.
“We clean up what we do,” Walker said. “I have said all year I'll take my group over anybody when we do what we do. So we clean up our act, do our thing, and then clean up in-game adjustments."
Aliceville will take on Sandy Rock on Monday, Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the BJCC Convention Center. The Yellow Jackets need two more victories to earn the school's first state championship.