Midfield and Montgomery Academy wasted no time setting the tone in Tuesday’s AHSAA Class 3A Central Regional semifinals at Alabama State’s Acadome.
The Patriots opened its 82-70 semifinal win over Greene County with a 20-0 run while the Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 lead on Aliceville in their 61-41 victory.
“It’s just huge for us right now to get off to a good start,” Montgomery Academy senior Josh Thomas said. “Most of the season, we started off kind of slow and had to battle back. We don’t need to do that right now in the playoffs.”
Now Montgomery Academy will take on the defending state champions Thursday at 7 p.m. at ASU for a trip to the Final Four in Birmingham.
With much at stake, the Eagles planned to watch film right after Tuesday’s win.
“They are who they are,” said Montgomery Academy coach Anthony McCall about Midfield. “They do what they do. We’ve just got to prepare and be us. That’s all we say. We just do us. We’re not going to do anything outside the box.”
McCall realizes the challenge of facing Midfield (21-12), but said his Eagles (20-8) are “no slouch, either.” The Patriots certainly made a strong statement early in their semifinal win as they shot 53.6 percent from the field in the first half in building a 42-18 halftime lead.
“We just kept on attacking and kicking it out to the shooters,” Midfield guard Jermaine Turner said.
Turner scored 19 of his game-high 29 points in the first half. For the game, the 5-foot, 9-inch senior shot 10-of-14 from the field.
“I feel 1-on-1, nobody can stop him in the state,” Midfield coach Darrell Barber said.
Montgomery Academy led 33-12 at halftime as it hit 12-of-18 shots from the field in the first half.
“I saw some teams earlier and I thought there was a lid on that basket,” McCall said. “The kids just executed offensively.”
Thomas scored 10 of his game-high 18 points in the first half.
“I was just looking for my shot, being aggressive and my teammates, they were just putting me in good positions to score,” Thomas said. “I’m just thankful for them.”
One difference in the two semifinal games is Midfield allowed Greene County to make a game of it while Montgomery Academy extended its halftime lead on Aliceville.
The Eagles led by as many as 22 points in the second half.
“We had some mental lapses there in the middle of the second quarter and late in the third, but overall, I felt pretty good about how we played on both ends of the court,” McCall said.
Greene County scored 52 points in the second half, but couldn’t overcome shooting a woeful 18.2 percent in the first half. For the game, the Tigers shot 30.1 percent, going 4-of-17 from 3-point range.
“We got the opportunities,” Greene County coach Rodney Wesley said. “We got some easy shots at the basket. It wasn’t so much what they were doing on defense or what we were doing on offense. We got some shots that we wanted and they just didn’t fall for us. Once you get behind 20-0, it’s hard to come back. It’s not like we got a shot clock.”
Barber feels as if Midfield greatly helped Greene County’s late rally with unnecessary fouls. The Tigers shot 26 free throws in the second half and made 16 of them.
“I don’t like the way we finished,” Turner said. “We didn’t box out well. Silly fouls. Fouls 94 feet from the goal. I didn’t like that at all.”
Montgomery AcademyÕs Josh Thomas shoots against AlicevilleÕs Anfernee Mullins in AHSAA Central Regional action at the ASU Acadome at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Ala. on Tuesday February 17, 2015.