As Scottsboro head coach Jason Bell and seniors Parker Bell, Tyson Sexton and Seth Whitmire sat somberly at the press conference table in the lower level of Legacy Arena, Coach Bell’s opening statement quickly focused on the three players he’s seen help Scottsboro climb to new heights the previous three seasons.
“It’s tough to know that I’ve coached them for the last time,” Jason Bell said.
Scottsboro’s 2022-23 season ended short of the perfect ending for those seniors and the rest of the Wildcats Wednesday night as Scottsboro’s state-title dreams were snuffed out by a team chasing perfection.
Undefeated and No. 8-ranked Valley (32-0) used a strong start, a gut-check scoring run in the third quarter and some stellar fourth-quarter free-throw shooting to defeat No. 6 Scottsboro 70-51 in the Class 5A Boys Basketball State Tournament semifinals in Birmingham Wednesday night.
“Tip your cap to Valley,” Jason Bell said. “They played well. Going into the game, we wanted to get them out of the paint and force them to shoot 3s and they made them. Our goal was to make them shoot the 3, and if we went into the fourth quarter behind, foul them and put them on the free-throw line. We watched so much film, percentage wise from 3 and the free-throw line, it was nothing like they shot tonight. That’s a credit to them. They rose to the occasion and did what they needed to do.”
Valley advanced to play No. 5 Charles Henderson in Saturday’s state championship game. Charles Henderson posted a 61-60 win over No. 1 Ramsay, coached by Scottsboro alum Denton Johnson, in Wednesday’s other semifinal contest.
Meanwhile, Scottsboro finished 24-9 in a season in which it won its second regional championship in three seasons and made the Elite 8 round for a third consecutive season.
“I hate that it ended this way, but I’m just thankful,” Sexton said. “I enjoyed every single minute of it. I thought this year we’d get the job done and go home with a ring. But I’m just thankful to be a part of this school and change the history of Scottsboro basketball forever. I’m proud of everyone in the locker room, proud of my best friends beside me (at the press conference), proud of my coach, proud of everybody.”
“Hate to see it end,” Whitmire said, “especially when it’s with guys you’ve been playing with since we were little. But I’m proud of what we’ve done.”
Added Parker Bell, “Scottsboro basketball has meant everything to me. I’ve enjoyed spending time with everyone, these two (Sexton and Whitmire) especially. Just hate to see it end.”
Sexton finished with 20 points and five rebounds for the Wildcats while Whitmire had 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and Parker Bell had nine points and six rebounds. Scottsboro also got five points and two rebounds from Jake Jones, three points, five rebounds and two assists from Kyle Wright and two points from Ethan Roberts.
Cam’ron Dooley scored a game-high 22 points for Valley while Jamarious Martin had 15 points and four assists and Denali Dooley had 12 points and 13 rebounds. Valley outrebounded Scottsboro 47-25, grabbing 17 offensive rebounds that led to 17 second-chance points.
Valley came out of the blocks firing, sinking three first-quarter 3-pointers while building a 15-3 lead at the end of a first quarter in which Scottsboro made only 1 of 12 shot attempts. The Rams closed the quarter on a 13-0 scoring run and led by as many as 14 points in the second quarter before holding a 27-17 halftime advantage.
Scottsboro enjoyed a strong start to the second half, using a 13-2 run to take the lead. The run featured three two-point baskets and a 3-pointer from Sexton before a layup and an elbow jumper from Parker Bell gave the Wildcats a 33-32 lead with 3:21 left in the third quarter. But Valley answered with a low-post bucket 16 seconds later before making four consecutive 3-pointers to extend its lead to 46-33 entering the fourth quarter. Scottsboro never got closer than nine the rest of the way as the Rams made 16 of 22 fourth-quarter free throws to close out the win.
“We gave good energy in the third quarter to get back in it, and they went and hit (four) straight 3s,” Jason Bell said. “Again, we haven’t seen them do that on film all year long. We did what we felt like we needed to do as far as game planning, but it didn’t work. Tip your cap to Valley and their players and their coaches. They (were) phenomenal.”
Before wrapping up the press conference, Jason Bell once again lauded on the phenomenal careers of Scottsboro’s senior trio.
“I can’t even put into words what they mean (to the program),” he said. “I love them. They’re winners.”
Now the goal, the coach said, is for Scottsboro to make sure this run of recent success doesn’t leave with them.
“We’ve got good players coming back. If they’re willing to put in the work like those three seniors did, we can (continue it),” Jason Bell said. “We hope we’ve changed the culture and that the young guys coming up see it and want to be a part of it and will be willing to put in the work because that’s what it takes.”
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