Red Level Tigers challenge

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 30, 2001

GHS Eagles for area title


Sports Writer

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Jan. 29, 2001

If there is such a thing as a game of the year in the regular season, then tonight’s battle for the Class 2A Area 2 championship certainly fits that category.

All of the eyes of high school basketball fans across south Alabama will be on Covington County – but not on Richard Robertson’s Andalusia Bulldogs for a change.

The Red Level Tigers (17-3, 6-1) hope to do the unthinkable by winning the regular season area championship tonight when they host the fourth ranked Goshen Eagles (13-2, 6-1) in what is billed as the biggest game of the entire regular season for both teams. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m.

The winner of this game will host the upcoming Class 2A Area 2 tournament starting next week. The top two teams will qualify for the substate playoffs with the winner of the area championship game hosting, while the loser must go on the road in an attempt to make it to the Southwest Regionals at the Mitchell Center in Mobile on the University of South Alabama campus Feb. 20.

Both teams come into tonight’s battle riding long winning streaks. Ironically, the Eagles last loss was a 79-75 overtime decision on Jan. 2 to the Tigers, while Red Level has reeled off five consecutive victories after dropping a 76-67 area verdict to county rival Straughn. Over the past weekend, Goshen trounced arch rival Luverne 72-41 Friday night while the Tigers struggled to beat outmanned area fow Highland Home in overtime Thursday night before defeating Opp 76-53 the next evening.

However, Red Level comes with a psychological edge knowing they handed Goshen its only loss of the season to a 2A opponent at Eagle Gym exactly four weeks ago. On the other hand, the Eagles feel like they’ve ironed out their mistakes during the month of January while crushing the rest of the Area 2 competition in the process.

In Red Level’s upset win over Goshen, the Tigers overcame a 10 point halftime deficit to a 63-57 lead with two minutes remaining the game before the Eagles regained their edge by going on a 8-2 run to tie the game at 65-65

sending it into overtime. However, the Tigers kept converting on second chances in the overtime period as they came out of Goshen with the win.

GHS head coach Major Lane said the stakes for the game are very

high with the season on the line for both teams.

"You always want to play (the area tournament) at home," Lane said. "You can go on the road and win it, but it’s not going to be easy. We want to secure the home court and we know what it takes to get us to where we want to go. Hopefully, we can continue with what we’re going with the area championship on the line (tonight) at Red Level."

The Tigers are led by small forward Frank Tolbert, who scored 22 points in the win over the Eagles earlier this month. Forwards Jamie Wright and Anthony Ryce along with point guard Shawn Jackson give the Tigers the firepower and balance it needs to complete a season sweep over GHS.

Lane said the biggest points of emphasis he’s placed in Sunday and Monday’s practices are

rebounding and preventing the Tigers from scoring second chance points.

"The main thing we’ve got to do is keep them from getting second chance shots," Lane said. "If we can prevent them from second chance points and take their small forward away, we’ll have a great opportunity to win this game."

Lane said the Tigers will remind Goshen fans of Straughn in that they have the ability to pick and choose when to run and set up the half court offense.

Following the loss to the Tigers in Goshen, Lane said he hopes the Eagles will be able to put the game away if they have the opportunity in order to take the rowdy Red Level home crowd out of the game.

"The main thing we have to do is deliver a knockout punch," Lane said. "This game gives us a better opportunity to know what we need to do. Hopefully we can get off to a good start, but if we stumble hopefully we’ll stick with the game plan. I think my guys are in better condition to do the things it takes to win."

With the Tigers expected to mix up man and zone defenses, Lane said the ability to have a balanced inside-outside attack featuring senior forward Jamar Tucker and junior point guard Averick Rogers will be key offensively for the Eagles.

"We need to try to get the ball inside and if we can’t we’ve got the guys who can hit the three point shot," Lane said.

"We need to push the ball up in transition and get into their bench early because they are not very deep."

However, Lane said he expects Red Level to try to play a

physical game much like the way they did in the second half in their four point overtime win over the Eagles.

"They have good size up front (average height 6-foot-2 1/2) and they can bang and hustle," Lane said. "We need to attack the inside by being aggressive and forcing them into mistakes."

The other key things the Eagles need tonight include continued improvement in shooting free throws and cutting down on turnovers. Lane said he hopes the Eagles can hit between 75-to-90 percent from the free throw line following a horrendous Shaq like 11-of-26 outing against Red Level in the first meeting.

Lane said he expects nothing but a war in a hostile environment when Goshen arrives in Red Level tonight.

"They have very vocal fans and our fans are too, so we are expecting a packed house," Lane said. "But we’re going down there with the idea of winning the regular season area title. I think it’s important to host the (area) tournament so we can win the first game in order to get a chance to play in the state tournament. But if we don’t win it (tonight), then we’ll have to do

it on the road at Red Level."

In the girls game, the Lady Eagles (5-9) will be putting on a dress rehearsal when they face the Lady Tigers (17-3). Goshen and Red Level are currently set to play each other in the first round of the girls area tournament next week in Highland Home.

Around the county tonight, Charles Henderson will try to snap a two-game losing streak tonight when travel to Millbrook to face number seven ranked Stanhope Elmore in a 5A matchup. Other contests include Montgomery County at Pike County (in Brundidge) and Pike Liberal Arts hosting Glenwood in an AISA area contest.

The Eagles conclude the regular season with a three-game homestand beginning Thursday night when they host Pike County at 5 p.m. in Goshen.