The Paul W. Bryant Stampede defeated the Hillcrest Patriots 61-50 in the AHSAA Regional Final to advance to the state semifinal. JJ Crawford led the Stampede with 16 points, followed by running mate Adrian Wooley, who earned 15 points and was awarded Tournament MVP. The Patriots were led by guard Osa Alohan's 20 points and forward Ja'kari Andrews' 11 points and eight rebounds.

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The Stampede defeated the Patriots for the fourth time this season. They met twice during the regular season in the Area-6 title game and the regional final in the AHSAA State Playoffs.

You could feel the intensity emanating from both sides at the start of this game. Hillcrest got off to a good start in the first few minutes of the game. The Patriots established an early 5-0 lead, but the Stampede took over the rest of the first half. Bryant led 19-8 after the opening quarter and 27-18 at halftime.

The story of the second half was Hillcrest's cold shooting in the fourth quarter and Bryant's hot shooting. The Patriots made nice shots after halftime. They shot 8-for-17 from the field, hit a 3-pointer, and went 3-for-5 from the foul line. Hillcrest scored 20 points in the third quarter and headed into the fourth quarter just down nine points.

For Hillcrest, that fourth quarter was the game-changer. During the period, the Patriots shot 20% from the field, did not make a three-pointer, and only attempted three shots. Bryant did an excellent job of killing the clock, which explains why Hillcrest did not have many opportunities to score.

Hillcrest had 38 rebounds to Bryant's 30 in the game. The Patriots' turning point was their inability to make shots in the fourth quarter.

Bryant shot 73% and was 2-for-3 from beyond the arc in the second half. The Stampede's defense was successful in causing a total of 18 turnovers. In the fourth quarter, they shot 87.5%, primarily on driving layups, mid-range jumpers from Crawford and Wooley, and a breakaway dunk from Marchello Perkins to end the game.

The Big 3s of Paul Bryant and Hillcrest were highlighted as the most important factors to watch for in this game in the preview piece. Wooley, Crawford, and Marquis Nash, three members of Bryant, each played for about 30 minutes. Nash did, however, play 21 minutes because of early foul problems, which was something that needed to be watched before the game. With Perkins' ten points in the game, they may now include a fourth player in the mix.

Hillcrest's three players, Alohan, DJ Hamlett, and Shah Hall, each played 30 minutes or more, although their impact on the game was not felt by everyone. Hamlett finished the game with just six points and a rebound. Hall finished with nine points, a game-high 14 rebounds, and three turnovers showing a much-improved presence from his regional semifinal performance. The Stampede's big 3 won on both counts, as seen by the result and the opposition.

Paul Bryant's head coach Shon Peck-Love was proud of his team’s effort and performance in the game.

"I think we played a great defensive game overall," Peck-Love said. “We had a couple of breakdowns, allowed some offensive rebounds, but made some adjustments. Overall, the team played great and played good defense.”

Peck-Love remarked on playing Hillcrest for the fourth time and how his team has been able to overcome a familiar opponent.

"They are a great team, and I take nothing away from them, and coach [Scott] Suttles is a great coach, but these guys have played against each other so much that they know each other. We screen-lined our game plan to take away two players: Osa and DJ. We understood that if we could do that, it would make it difficult for them to score. We wanted to make the other guys beat us." Peck-Love explained.

Wooley picked up his fourth foul of the game early in the third quarter, and Peck-Love elected to keep him in the game despite the fact that he may foul out.

"He's our best player, and we needed him out there," Peck-Love said. "I had faith in him, and I asked him, 'Can I trust you not to pick up a fifth foul?' He promised me that. I believed in him, and he played well despite four fouls."

On March 1 at 1:30 pm at the BJCC Convention Center, Paul Bryant will play Mountain Brook in the state semifinals. The Stampede faced the Spartans in their opening game of the season in November, losing 67-49. Both teams have grown since November, and the Stampede will need to show that improvement in order to compete for a state title.

Hillcrest vs Bryant: Elite Eight

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