HHS & LHS Final 4 Bound in high-stakes basketball showdowns

Published 9:53 am Thursday, February 22, 2024

By Ella-Kate Tomlin and Haley Mitchell Godwin

On Feb. 20, the Luverne Varsity Girls’ basketball team and the Highland Home Varsity Boys’ team clinched victories in the regional finals of the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) South Regional basketball tournament, held in Montgomery. Advancing to the “Final 4”, both Crenshaw County teams were officially dubbed AHSAA 2A South Regional Champions during brief ceremonies following Tuesday’s games at the Garrett Coliseum in which Tony Stallworth, longtime Brantley High School head basketball coach, retired AHSAA Associate Executive Director/current AHSAA volunteer and administrative assistanct with Crenshaw County Schools, presented the squads with plaques.

The Lady Tigers punched their ticket to the finals with a history-making 54-48 win over the Cottonwood Bears,  advancing to the Final 4 for the first time in the history of Lady Tiger Basketball. Kalaiya (Kae Kae) Dixon, a key player for Luverne, credited her team’s success throughout the season to their hard work and unwavering confidence.

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“I feel that we played a great game against Cottonwood,” Dixon said. “We played a good team, but our mindset is really what brought us to a win. We work hard every day to have the opportunity to play big games like this and to go this far into the playoffs. I have no doubt that my teammates, coaches and I will continue to go even further.”

Tournament MVP Zyan Peterson scored 23 points during the game and had 9 rebounds. Peterson was 8-of-13 from the court and 7-of-12 from the free throw line for Luverne. Nikayla Melton had 9 points and 9 rebounds and Amiracle Taylor scored 8 points against the Bears.

Principal Kilpatrick commended the Lady Tigers for their remarkable progress throughout the season, attributing their success to their work ethic and dedication.

“It has been so great watching the Lady Tigers continue to get better and better each week,” Kilpatrick said. “They are having a great time and giving it their all. Coach Dorsey and his staff continue to motivate the team and get the best out of each player. The support from the students, staff and community has been incredible and we are so proud of our Lady Tigers and look forward to what they will achieve.”

The Highland Home varsity boys’ basketball team secured their spot in the Final 4 with a 51-33 win over the Clarke County Bulldogs.  On Monday the Squadron will be making their second trip in three years to Birmingham for the finals.

HHS player Jakaleb Faulk had a double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds during the Tuesday evening game against the Bulldogs. Faulk also was credited with three steals. Brice Mckenzie followed Faulk with 14 points and CJ May had 10 rebounds to go along with seven points.

Head coach Justin Cope described the excitement both he and the players feel over advancing to finals.

“The guys played well Tuesday, but there are still many things we’re going to have to improve on,” Cope said. “Every team is battling for the same thing this time of year and you can’t get relaxed or complacent. We knew they wouldn’t go down easy and from here on out, no team will go down easy. But one thing about these boys is, they are going to fight, and they are happy about heading to the Final Four, determined to bring a championship to Highland Home.”

Clarke County Head Coach Barry Coleman said in an interview that Highland Home was indeed a tough opponent.

“They (Highland Home) were more physical and that’s the difference,” Coleman said. “We didn’t stick to the game plan. We wanted to pull their big guys out, but we haven’t got it all figured out yet.

The Lady Tigers (19-6) will play the Ider Hornets (20-11) Monday Feb. 26 at 6 p.m.  followed by Highland Home (20-7) taking on the LaFayette Bulldogs (24-7) at 7:30 p.m.

In addition to the facility rental fee charged to the AHSAA, the BJCC charges $1 per ticket, bringing the total cost of a ticket purchased, at the gate, to $13. Fans are encouraged to arrive early at Birmingham’s BJCC Legacy Arena to avoid long delays at the gate’s box office. For information on parking, traffic, ­live-streaming or TV please go to www.ahsaa.com.