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Patriots finish runner-up in 7A Area 8 tourney, will face Vestavia Hills Thursday at regionals

By Caleb Odom (

DECATUR — The Black Bears of Austin played the Friday 7A Area 8 Championship against Bob Jones with a chip on their shoulder besting the Patriots 62-45.

“Everybody had us last in the area and they didn’t think we were going to win, and we proved everybody wrong,” Austin junior Jordan Johnson said with a grin.

An orange ladder stood underneath the hoop nearest the Austin student section and players were taking turns cutting pieces of the net down.

“This is my first time ever doing it, so it means a lot to me for coach to let us do that,” Black Bear senior Cam Collins said still holding onto his piece of net proudly.

Johnson and Collins both finished the game with 15 points each for the orange and black who won the championship at their home court of all places.

The Patriots were led by Malachi Mitchell, who tallied 12 points, while Eric Marrow had nine for Bob Jones in the loss.

“We played hard,” Mitchell said. “I just thought that we needed to block out more, be more aggressive on the ball and switch on defense, listen, and be vocal.”

This was not do or die for Bob Jones, so the Patriots loaded onto the bus and headed back to Madison to prepare for what awaits next week.

Hoover’s 64-59 loss to Vestavia Hills Friday night in the Area 5 championship means that the Hoover Bucs face Austin next Thursday Feb. 16, while Bob Jones is penciled in to take on Vestavia Hills the same day.

The games will take place at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville with the start times of 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. yet to be assigned.

“I feel like it’s going to be a little tough matchup,” Collins said referring to facing Hoover next week. “We have just got to go out and play 100 percent like we are supposed to. We should get the dub.”

The reason these teams are playing who they are playing is because Austin was able to score more than the Patriots in key spots and make some adjustments in the second half.

The crowd was mostly out of it in the first quarter.

There was just a low hum of people talking while a game was being played early on.

It appeared Austin was going to lead 11-7 at the end of the first quarter, but Mitchell nailed a long 3-pointer that slashed the advantage to just 11-10 Black Bears at the buzzer.

“A quiet gym, that’s not going to bring any energy to anyone,” Collins said. “So, I feel like our crowd, getting hyped with us, I feel like we need that a lot.”

The score was 26-19 by halftime and Bob Jones was still fighting to stay in it.

“I thought our kids were very competitive in the first half,” Bob Jones head coach Luther Tiggs said. “We did a great job against the boards and giving ourselves second chances.”

At the half, the Patriots coach wanted his team to regroup and clean some things up, but Austin continued to attack.

It was 4:48 in the third quarter when the game took a hard lurch in Austin’s direction for good.

Collins had the ball and he was motoring down the court.

The Austin playmaker flashed upward toward the rim and slammed the ball in the hoop for a window rattling dunk that supercharged the crowd and gave the Black Bears a 30-19 advantage.

Staging a comeback for Bob Jones was beginning to evaporate quickly as Collins and Johnson terrorized the Patriots at every turn.

When Mitchell and company would try to make something happen for Bob Jones, there was Austin forcing them to take long-range shots that mostly missed their mark.

“Our job was to get at him and not let him have easy shots,” Johnson said. “Make him take tough shots the whole game.”

By the end of the third quarter, it was 42-26 Austin firmly in control.

The Patriots never gave up in this contest.

Bob Jones kept pushing the ball down the court and playing defense as time continued to tick down.

One player for the Patriots who stood out was Khani Chilufya, who ended up with eight hard-earned points while to also contributing with rebounds and physicality.

With the game next week now firmly in sight, Bob Jones has an opportunity to do something special at Wallace State against a powerful Vestavia Hills program.

“So, it will be another formidable challenge for us, but we’ll do the best job we can getting our guys prepared for the ballgame. Anybody can get beat, so we’ll see what happens,” Tiggs said.

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