With the area tournament games quickly approaching, one thing is sure: the Area-6 tournament will be staged in Cottondale. The Paul W. Bryant Stampede defeated the Northridge Jaguars 49-45 to secure the best area record and will host the Area-6 tournament on Feb. 9-11. Adrian Wooley led the Stampede with 18 points, Marchello Perkins II scored 13 points, and senior J.J. Crawford scored 11 points. The Jaguars were led by senior Patton Currington (16 points) and junior Anderson Wilkin (12 points).

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Northridge demonstrated why they are not just one of the top shooting teams in the area, but also in the state. The Jaguars hit six three-pointers in the game. Paul Bryant's defense contested almost all of their shots. Northridge was effective in rebounding early on. It was able to force up balls in the air which helped the team secure the rebound and box out its opponents effectively.

The Stampede struggled to formulate their offense without relying solely on Wooley. In the opening period, he notched 10 points. Against the Stampede, Northridge did a fair job of contesting many attempts in the paint making it tough for them to get easy shots. The Jags forced them to shoot mid-range shots, which Wooley and Crawford did quite well.

“He does so much for us. Whether it’s rebounds, scoring, or defending, it’s hard to find time to give him minutes to rest,” said Paul Bryant head coach Shon Peck-Love of Wooley. "He's simply an all-around player."

Currington had his game going early on. He had 10 points in the first half. His buckets came mostly from the paint and the free-throw line. Currington scores in an unpredictable manner, employing old-school post moves reminiscent of Hakeem Olajuwon and reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic. In the matchup, his footwork and pump fakes were efficient because he was able to force Paul Bryant's opponents to jump and foul him much of the night.

"He’s got a motor," Northridge head coach Bob Brantley said of Currington. "When he gets on the floor, he’s crafty, has great footwork, does a head fake when he goes to the basket, gets his guy out of his stance, and he just plays hard."

The game went in Paul Bryant's favor in the second half when it was able to improve on the boards. Northridge had five offensive rebounds in the first half, but the Stampede was able to reduce it to two in the second half. Wooley was still creating plays for the squad, but in the third quarter, he was able to get Crawford going. Crawford scored seven of his 11 points in the second half.

"Well, we depend on him a lot," Peck-Love said of Crawford’s slow start. "I think he kind of slowed down a little bit and let the game come to him."

The Stampede had more athletes on its side and took advantage of it by going to the rim, hitting timely shots, and outrebounding the Jags. Northridge's three-point shooting, on the other hand, kept them in the game.

Wooley was able to connect with junior Eric Grant for the tough layup that gave them the lead with 1:17 remaining in the game, which was tied at 43 with less than two minutes remaining. From that point on, Paul Bryant would maintain the lead, securing the victory and the top seed in the Area-6 tournament.

"It was a tough one," Peck-Love said of his team’s win. "They made some late stops down there. We got a couple of late-game rebounds where it mattered. That’s what it was about during the course of the game—just making stops and finishing with a rebound."

Peck-Love discussed the changes made to increase his team's rebounding statistics.

"We wanted to make sure that we were doing our assignments." Peck-Love said. "Our zone has block out assignments, and we kind of got away from it in the first half. The shooters had us spread out for a little bit, where we couldn’t rebound well out of our zone, but I think we made the adjustments in halftime."

In this game, Northridge's shooting was on full display, but Peck-Love had the plan to deal with them.

"Our goal was to run them off the three-point line." Peck-Love added. "We had our wings extended on them for a bit in our zone, but once they started getting the ball on the inside and hurting us in the paint, that caused us to adjust and sink in, where we had to leave some shooters open."

Paul Bryant will host the tournament and have home-court advantage thanks to the victory over Northridge. Peck-Love discussed what getting the one seed means.

"It was important for us to get the top seed." Peck-Love said. "I think we have been pretty good here at home this year. You get that first-round game, and you are assured whether you go on the road or stay at home if you can win that first-round game. So, I think it was important to get that one seed, so we didn’t have to deal with seeds 2 and 3."

The Area-6 tournament will be held in a few weeks, with Paul Bryant as the top seed and the tournament's host. Behind them is Northridge, Hillcrest, and Central. This Friday at 4:30 p.m., Paul Bryant and Central will rekindle their storied rivalry. If history has taught us anything, it is that these two teams only care about beating one another. The Falcons are hoping to obtain the number two spot by defeating their archrivals.

Paul Bryant vs Northridge

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