TCHS Takes Down Northridge in the In-City Rivalry.
On Jan 30, the Tuscaloosa County High School Wildcats defeated the Northridge Jaguars 65-55. Three Wildcats players scored fewer than ten points: Grant Stubbs finished with a team-high 23 points, followed by Collin McDaniel with 15 points and Andrew Winegarden with 12. Senior Kenneth Mickens led the Jags with 15 points.
The most recent meeting came in Northport when TCHS won a thrilling game 58-54. Both the teams' and fans' energy were high during that game. Given that this clash was a sell out, it did not disappoint in that regard.
"What an environment for high school basketball," said Wildcats head coach Curt Weeks. "Really proud of our students for showing up over here and supporting these guys they've been behind us all year. Beating them at home and then beating them again here is a huge win for our school and community. It’s always fun to beat these guys.”
Both teams were making shots early in the first half. Both were fueled by the energy of their student sections. While both teams shot well from the floor, Northridge's shots stopped falling as the squad started forcing shots and missing easy layups. TCHS, on the other hand, did not have that issue.
Sheldrick McNeal Jr. and Gabriel White of County High were able to get to the hoop frequently in the first half. McNeal scored seven points in the first half, largely on dribble drives. The Wildcats and Jaguars have similar styles of play in that they both like to move the ball and shoot quality open shots, primarily from behind the 3-point line.
TCHS took control of the game early in the second quarter by hitting three-pointers and going to the foul line. Northridge went cold from deep early in the second quarter, and it continued through the third. The Wildcat defense was outstanding, as they limited Northridge to five of 14 field goal attempts and only two of eight 3-point attempts.
"Defending the three was a priority, and I think our kids did the best they could," Weeks said. "For the most part we didn't execute the plan on some of the other things we intended to do, but fortunately it worked out. They made a couple of big threes late, but credit to them for giving themselves a shot."
Northridge's difficulty from deep continued in the second half due to the Wildcats' ability to run them off the 3-point line. Almost every 3-point attempt by the Jaguars was contested. Turnovers were a significant issue for them as well. TCHS led by as many as 11 points late in the fourth quarter.
"I thought they were a couple of times we got up by 7 or 9 four or five times in the game and I was hopeful we'd be able to carry it on out, but we had some bad breaks. Our kids fought through it, and they stayed together, and at the end of the day, we won the game, and I'm pleased of that," said Weeks.
With less than two minutes remaining in the fourth, Northridge went on a late run. The Jaguars went on an 8-0 run, and Mickens hit a 3-pointer to close the gap to two points. Jackson Moore of TCHS scored a layup to put his team up four. With 40 seconds remaining, the Jags turned the ball over again, and the Wildcats took control of the game.
"They were the epitome of what they've been all year: connected and together," said Weeks. "I give Northridge a lot of credit for playing hard. They took advantage of some of our mistakes, but our kids have been resilient all year."
TCHS plays true team basketball in which every player on the squad can step up and be the guy. Weeks discussed how the night belonged to his three double-digit scorers.
"I think it all starts with confidence," Weeks said. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in every player we dress out. It just so happened to be those three tonight. They were aggressive. They took what Northridge gave them in terms of what we do on offense and how we execute, and when they had the chance, they took advantage of it."
"What a ball game," Weeks said. "It's unfortunate that someone lost the game. What a wonderful environment they made. Our kids came over and created a wonderful atmosphere. It's unfortunate that someone got the short end of the stick, but I'm happy we won the game."