Arab’s size on the offensive and defensive end was again a mixture that proved too much to overcome for Scottsboro.
Five second-half buckets in the post from John Malone and nearly double-digit blocks from Blake Kelley, including two in the closing seconds, helped the top-seeded Knights hold of third-seeded Scottsboro 46-44 in the Class 5A Area 15 championship game Friday night at Arab High School.
“Size difference is just something they use against us,” said Scottsboro head coach Kenny Hill. “[Malone] just posted us up. It’s not that he’s that much taller than us, but he’s got the girth, big, strong kid. “The difference in the game was that kid [Kelley] had eight or nine blocks. He erased so many baskets around the rim.”
Both teams advanced to play in Class 5A Northeast Sub-regional games tonight. Scottsboro (14-16) travels to play Area 13 champion Crossville (10-13) — the Lions surprised area tournament host Boaz 44-37 in the finals — while Arab (19-12) hosts Marshall County rival Boaz (18-11). Sub-regional winners advance to play Feb. 18 in the Class 5A Northeast Regional at Jacksonville State University.
Friday’s area championship game was a defensive grind with neither team building a sizable lead. Scottsboro’s largest lead was four while Arab’s was six, and there were 12 lead changes and five ties.
Arab led 7-4 after one quarter and the game was tied 16-all at halftime. The teams’ offenses heated up briefly in the third quarter as Scottsboro carried a 35-34 lead into the fourth quarter.
Arab took a 46-41 lead with 1:30 left on Malone’s bucket in the post, but Butler Bell hit a 3-pointer on the Wildcats’ ensuing possession to cut the deficit to 46-44.
Scottsboro missed a trey with less than one minute left, and took possession back after Arab missed a free throw on its ensuing possession. But Kelley blocked a Scottsboro shot in the lane with 11.5 seconds, and after Arab missed the front end of another 1-and-1, Kelly partially blocked a Scottsboro 3-pointer as time expired.
Bell finished with 14 points and JaVaris Branford added 13 for the Wildcats, who also got six from Jordan Davis, four from Jacob Cooper, three from Heath Phillips and two each from Noah Linville and Nate Boleware.
Malone scored 10 points and Jordan NeSmith netted seven for Arab, which is 3-0 against Scottsboro this season with a combined margin of victory of only eight points.
“Our guys played really hard,” Hill said. “It’s just sometimes you win by two and sometimes you lose by two. We played tight the whole game, and [Arab] did too. It was just two teams that know each other so well. It was just a tough, tough game. If they [continue to] win and move on and we win and move on, we could get a chance to play them in Jacksonville.”