ALL-STAR WEEK: North continues dominance in basketball
By Tim Gayle
Micala Fisanick came into Wednesday’s Alabama All-Star Sports Week basketball competition hoping to showcase her shooting ability in the Auburn University Montgomery Physical Education Complex.
The Saint James senior-to-be came off the bench to open the second quarter and nailed the first 3-pointer she took, but didn’t make another basket the remainder of the game. Her next shot, a 15-footer from the left side of the court, was followed by a pair of 3-point misses as shots, in addition to playing time, was in short supply.
“I guess it’s always a little disappointing to not go all the way to the highest point of your strengths but it is what it is and I was happy to be out there with these other players and to play,” she said. “It was so much fun. It was crazy because it went by so fast.”
Three quick practices and a game later, the North continued its 2017 domination of the South by winning both the boys and girls basketball competition on Wednesday, continuing a trend in girls basketball that dates back to the opening game in 1997.
“The hard thing is you have 14 girls and 32 minutes,” said South coach Rich Bixby of Geneva High, “and you still want to win. It was really, really difficult trying to balance all that.”
Bixby couldn’t help but notice his team was quicker and could generate steals but often found themselves rushing shots on the other end against the taller North squad. Players like Fisanick that are perimeter shooters could rarely find the time to set up for a shot against the aggressive man-to-man defense.
“You kind of go with the flow of the game, who’s hot and what’s working at that time,” Bixby said. “It’s hard to get a 3-point shot off. You’ve got to have an extra pass. It wasn’t a real good shot – some of them – and we’d rush a 3-point shot instead of working to get that shot.”
The North also won the boys game 74-64, extending their lead to 48-27 in a series that dates to 1953. The game was tied three times in the fourth quarter, the final time with 5:18 left at 55-55, before Travarus Carroll of Huffman hit a pair of 3-pointers and a pair of free throws in a 12-3 run that put the North in charge.
Carroll, the North’s most valuable player, hit 8 of 11 shots from the field and 8 of 10 free-throw attempts to finish with 27 points.
Homewood’s Trey Jemison, who had University of Alabama coaches scouting him from the stands, added 13 points and 11 rebounds, followed by Parker’s Xavier Williams with nine.
For the South, Lanett teammates Anquavious Pollard and Emanuel Littles combined for 34 points. Pollard was the South most valuable player after hitting five 3-pointers and all four free-throw attempts to finish with 23 points, eight rebounds and three steals, all team highs.
The local trio of Carver guard Jalen Gaston, Prattville guard Azariah Seay and Brew Tech forward Theo Akwuba all struggled, combining to hit just 2 of 11 shots from the field.
LeFlore guard Daisha Bradford earned most valuable player honors for the South with 15 points and five rebounds, both team highs.
“I was glad to get the chance to play with them,” Bradford said. “We all had fun. We had the game in our hands the first half and I guess the energy went down in the second half.”
Another factor was the North’s height advantage, which allowed them to dominate on the glass for a 53-36 rebounding advantage.
“We had the advantage speed wise, they were bigger,” Fisanick noted. “It wasn’t quite enough out there tonight but I thought we did pretty good.”
Homewood’s Ajah Wayne scored 16 of her 22 points in the first half and grabbed eight rebounds as well as most valuable player honors for the North. Hazel Green’s Brooke Hampel added 12 points, followed by Allie Cruce of Lauderdale County with 11.
For Fisanick, there was disappointment that she didn’t get to show off her strengths, but wisdom to realize her seven minutes on the court with some of the state’s best basketball players pointed out a few things she needs to work on as well.