Blanked in Birmingham

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, February 25, 2009

BIRMINGHAM — A successful season came to a disappointing end for the Andalusia Bulldogs Wednesday afternoon.

Anniston’s Milton Curry and Marquez Safford helped their team advance to the Class 4A state finals. Curry led his team with 22 points, while Safford added an additional 20 points to lead Anniston to a 79-68 win over Andalusia Wednesday in the semifinal round of the state tournament.

“It was a big game,” Anniston coach Schuessler Ware said. “I’m just glad to get that chapter behind us.”

Anniston will face Dora in the Class 4A boys championship Friday night.

Despite the loss Wednesday, Andalusia coach Richard Robertson said overall he is still “proud” to have come this far.

“We’re proud to be here, but we’d like to be here on the winning side,” Robertson said. “We didn’t play well and that had to do with what Anniston did to us. We dug ourselves a hole, battled hard to try and get out of it and they put us in a predicament where we were doing things that we didn’t know what to do.”

Anniston set the pace of the game in the first half, going up 22-16 after the first quarter, and scoring an additional 20 points in the second quarter to go into halftime with a 42-28 lead.

“That’s the thing I tried to stress to them,” Robertson said. “People have tried to do that (set the pace) here of late. We’re not a fast-paced breakneck speed basketball team. People are trying to take us out of our comfort zone and (Anniston) did that.

It was back-and-forth play in the second half for both teams.

Andalusia (26-3) brought the game to within 11 points with 2:03 left to go in the third quarter when Nico Johnson scored a jumper to make the score 56-45.

On the next possession, Johnson, who finished with 18 points, rebounded and drove in a layup with 1:26 left in the third to put the game at 58-47.

Anniston took a timeout to regroup with 1:16 on the clock and soon after, Andalusia’s O’Brien Curry was fouled on a layup and put in the free throw to make the score 58-50 with 9.6 seconds left in the third.

Johnson said it was pretty hard defending the “boards” against Anniston.

“It was real difficult because the majority of the year we hadn’t had a team crash the boards like they did,” Johnson said.

Andalusia’s Leslie James, who added 14 points of his own Wednesday, said the team couldn’t get their shots to fall.

“It was very frustrating that we couldn’t get the shots we wanted to get,” James said.

It was an easy ride for Anniston (26-6) in the fourth quarter as they added 19 points to their 60-50 lead to win the game.

Robertson said he would have liked to see a better ending to the season.

“We had a good season,” Robertson said. “I would have like to have had a better one. I hate for us to have to learn a lesson of what I’ve been preaching all year at the expense of a loss.

“We battled hard and our plan was not to get down and they shot the ball extremely well,” he said. “(Anniston) has a good basketball team and we knew that coming in. We got behind and had to battle uphill all (game).”

Robertson said that his team is capable of coming back to state next year if everything “falls into place.”

“A lot of things have to fall in place,” he said. “It all depends on how we lose some quality people. Our philosophy is going to remain the same. If I’m the coach (next year), the philosophy will remain the same because it’s been good to us.”

Robertson said he intends to keep coaching.

“It’s my intention to keep working and I don’t have any plans of quitting,” Robertson said. “You never know what might can happen, but my biggest concern now is to remain healthy and do the things that we should do to keep a good program going.”