Northport was the place to be to witness an absolute classic of a matchup as the Tuscaloosa County High Wildcats defeated the Paul Bryant Stampede 71-69 in double overtime. Jackson Moore scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Wildcats, with Sheldrick Mcneal Jr. scoring 11 and Jaxon Pearson scoring 9. Jaykob Johnson led the Stampede with 22 points and five three-pointers. Adrian Wooley finished with 20 points, followed by Rafe Merriweather with 11.

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This game was a contest between two teams that played in different ways. Paul Bryant enjoys getting out and running, taking advantage of their athleticism and star power with Wooley, who has committed to Kennesaw State. Most of the time, they don't shoot many threes, and they approach the rim freely.

TCHS, on the other side, shoots a lot of three-pointers, but they are all good ones. Team basketball is the cornerstone of the culture that County High's head coach Curt Weeks, has created. When watching the Wildcats play, keep an eye out for constant ball movement and their shooting efficiency. Despite having a young squad with only four seniors, they are effective at what they do. They have several players on the team that will make a lot of deep shots.

The Stampede had opportunities to extend their lead in the first half thanks to Johnson's torrid shooting and the athleticism they have against the Wildcats. Johnson made five of his first shots, including three three-pointers in the first half.

Yet Wooley only managed three points in the first half, largely due to County High's defense against him.

"I think it's just being resilient," Weeks said. "We know the kid is going to make plays, but our kids buy into what had to be done to give us a chance to be successful. They stayed with it; they stayed true to who we are and what we have to do. It usually works out; it doesn't work every time, but we're getting there."

The Stampede led the Wildcats by seven, eight, or eleven points at one point, but they were never able to pull away. The Wildcats' three-point shooting prevented them from extending their lead any further, even after Paul Bryant went on a scoring run.

The game was back and forth in the second half. Late in the fourth quarter, TCHS held a two-possession lead. However, the Stampede responded with big baskets from Eric Grant, Merriweather, and Wooley, who scored nine points in overtime and 17 points in the second half.

The Wildcats had an opportunity to win the game in regulation, but their shot missed the mark.

It seemed like whoever took advantage of every opportunity in OT would win. Paul Bryant was able to take advantage of the openings that Wooley had generated for them. His ability to attack the basket and finish near the rim was the source of his nine points in the overtime period.

Paul Bryant's biggest issue was that they were never able to get good looks at the free-throw line. Only four times did the Stampede reach the line and made just two of them, but those were important shots at crucial junctures in the contest. The Wildcats made seven of seven from the free throw line, including McNeal Jr.'s game-winning shots.

Rebounding was the game's most important aspect. While Paul Bryant has more players who can just jump up and grab rebounds, TCHS excelled at rebounding, chasing loose balls, and diving on the floor. McNeal Jr., Moore, and Andarius Mcclain all pulled down huge offensive rebounds and made crucial plays to seal the victory.

"Size wise and athleticism, we got our hands full," Weeks said. "At the end of the day, they trust what we do, and I thought we were able to ware them down, and we just asserted our will there late to stay in it and to have a chance."

Two thrilling finishes to a fantastic game. Staying true to their principles and making big shots as the game went on, County High emerged victorious. Weeks has always preached team basketball, creating a sense that anyone can have a great day for the Wildcats. Moore, playing one of the best games of his career, just so happened to be that for them.

"They believe in themselves, and they believe in what we are trying to do," Weeks said. "They are understanding what the Wildcat Way is. We're not there but they are buying in. They are being great teammates; they are playing with complete confidence; they are staying evenkill; they are not getting too high or too low, and they play with max effort."

On Friday at 7:30 p.m., TCHS will travel to Calera to play the Calera Eagles. On Wednesday night, Paul Bryant defeated Huffman 52–40, and on Friday, we will witness one of the state's most illustrious rivalries. Paul Bryant and Central on Friday at 4 p.m.

Full postgame interview with TCHS coach Curt Weeks:

TCHS vs Paul Bryant

Gallery Credit: Jyeasha Nance



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