One of Tuscaloosa's oldest rivalries was reignited tonight when the Paul Bryant Stampede defeated the Central Falcons, 60-38. Three players for the Stampede scored in double figures: Adrian Wooley finished with a game-high 17 points, Rafe Merriweather finished with 15, and Marchello Perkins had 14. King Larkin ended the game with 14 points for the Falcons, while Javion Taylor finished with nine.

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The Stampede arrived in full force in a crowded house inside Central High School, where it felt like a significant chunk of Tuscaloosa was there and there was barely enough parking. It didn't matter if it was getting open shots from long range, attacking the rim, or grabbing rebounds at will.

The story of this game was how excellent Paul Bryant's defense was. Just 16 points had been scored by Central in the first half, with six coming in just the second quarter. The Stampede exerted tremendous pressure on the other team's defensive end. Perkins, Merriweather, Eric Grant, and Wooley all contributed to this goal. Perkins made a lot of block shots, some of which were called questionable fouls. The Stampede loves to fastbreak, and Paul Bryant's active hands and numerous forced bad shots created plenty of opportunities for that.

"Well, those three are the leaders of the team," head coach Shon Peck-Love said. "Rafe is new to us, and he is still getting adjusted to the system. Once he gets adjusted, he's going to help us out a lot more."

The game grew out of hand in the third quarter as their defense never let up. Central earned every point that they scored. Everywhere they looked, there was a defender, and it was contested. Paul Bryant had extra possessions as a result of the excellent defense, and the team capitalized on those opportunities.

In this game, Wooley and the Stampede put on a show with some incredible dunks. The visiting fans were ecstatic when he slammed an alley-oop pass from Grant in the second half. Merriweather then entered the action with a forceful one-handed slam. Guys were jumping out of the gym and having fun on Paul Bryant's side.

Jalen Prince/Jyeasha Nance
Jalen Prince/Jyeasha Nance

This week, the Stampede played in three games: a Tuesday loss to County High, a Wednesday victory over Huffman Magnet School, and a Friday victory against Central. Before the team's victory on Wednesday, Perkins missed a few games. He is a highly energetic player and one of the team's best shooters. When it comes to playing basketball, the 6-foot-4 senior has never lacked energy or confidence. Perkins made several three-pointers in the state semifinals against Mountain Brook last season, which was the best shooting performance of the game.

"These guys are battle-tested," Peck-Love said. "We played seven games in nine days. They're good to go, and that's what we do. They work hard in practice and make sure that they're in shape so they can play the number of minutes they will play."

Jalen Prince/Jyeasha Nance
Jalen Prince/Jyeasha Nance

This is the first season for Rafe Merriweather with the Stampede, transferring from Demopolis. Paul Bryant wouldn't have their former 6-foot-7 big man, Marquis Nash, this season. Wooley says that the 6-foot-5 senior has added exceptional athleticism, a different type of intensity that was greatly needed, and outside shooting from the big man position.

Paul Bryant will be back in action on Tuesday as they head to Jasper, Al., to participate in the City of Jasper Christmas Classic. Central will be in the 2023 Varsity Boys Big Orange Classic at Hoover High School in two weeks.

Central vs Paul Bryant: Basketball

Gallery Credit: Jalen Prince/Jyeasha Nance

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