Best of the best

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 31, 2012

Horton shines in senior season


Andalusia senior guard Alexis Horton said her teammates made her a better player — good enough to take home another state honor.


“The biggest thing this year was that she was able to be more of a team player because we had so many on the team that wanted to play with her,” Horton’s coach, Bennie Shellhouse said.


With that mentality, Horton and the Lady Bulldogs earned the Class 4A “red map” by finishing runner up.


Earlier this week, Horton was selected to the first team of the All-State basketball team by the Alabama Sports Writers Association, and is one of three finalists in the running for the basketball player of the year.


“I wasn’t even expecting that,” Horton said about being selected as one of the finalists. “I had no clue.”


Horton led her team in points per game this season with 20.5. She also averaged six assists and steals per game.


On a more local level, Horton was also selected to The Dothan Eagle’s Super 12 basketball team.


It was during a game against Elba in the Red Level Christmas Tournament that Horton shot her game-high 38 points against the Lady Tigers in a 74-34 win.


Horton said that was a game where she said she did “exceptionally well.”


One portion of her game Shellhouse said she really improved on this year was her “jump shots.”


“Her shooting got much better,” the coach said. “We’ve been working on getting her hands up. I think she really could see the difference. Then, she became a double-threat.”


In the best player of the year category, Horton is joined by Lacey Buchanon of Jacksonville; and Jasmine Steele of Midfield.


Shellhouse said he knew from her previous years on the team that she was going to have a good senior season.


“Normally, during their senior year, they’re going to have a better year,” he said. “She had had three good years in a row before then, and I figured that her senior year was going to be exceptional.”


Horton said the biggest highlight of the season was the team’s win over then No. 1 Good Hope in the state semifinals in Birmingham.


“It boosted our confidence up there,” Horton said.


Before the Lady Bulldogs beat Good Hope at the state tournament, they beat UMS-Wright in the regional championship game in Mobile.


Shellhouse said he believes that game “surprised” a lot of people because UMS was considered the better team.


“I think that was kind of a stapling factor for us,” he said. “A lot of people thought we were going (to lose). Polls had them ranked higher than us.


“I think that was probably the game that really put a stamp in our season, and then the next week going in and beating Good Hope,” he said.


Additionally, Horton’s teammate, senior Shi’Amber Townsend, was selected to the girls’ second team.


Townsend excels in season


Whenever possible, put the basketball in Andalusia senior forward Jacard Townsend’s hands.


And that’s exactly what Andalusia High School’s basketball team did this season.


Known for its strong inside game, the Bulldogs looked to Townsend to provide many of their points in the paint.


AHS coach Richard Robertson said Townsend is the only senior on the team that has played in the regional tournament for four years in a row.


“He’s been here longer than anyone else,” Robertson said. “Therefore, last year, he played at the five spot. This year, we played at the four. It’s a little more mobile than the five.”


For the better part of his senior season, Townsend fulfilled his role nicely, which paved his way on the first team of the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Class 4A All-State basketball team.


Additionally, Townsend was also selected to The Dothan Eagle’s Super 12 basketball team.


“He really played the same role our other inside folks have played,” Robertson said.


Townsend averaged 18.6 points per game and 15.1 rebounds per game to lead the Bulldogs, who finished their season in the semifinals of the South Regional Tournament in Mobile.


Even though his season came up a bit short for him, Townsend said it was still successful in his eyes.


“We had a game plan we were supposed to do,” he said. “I played my hardest.”


Townsend’s hardest also granted him to be one of three finalists for basketball player of the year. He is competing against Midfield’s Brandon Moss and Butler’s Justin Pride.


Andalusia defeated Headland to claim the Class 4A, Area 3 title to win its only championship this season.


Townsend said that game was the best he had played this season.


“Everybody thought we were going to lose because we had lost to them before,” he said. “We had to go down there, and we showed them that we can beat them.”


Even though the season finished a little earlier than expected, Townsend said the team accomplished a goal nobody thought was possible.


“One goal that we accomplished this year is that everybody thought we weren’t going to make it to Mobile,” he said. “We proved everybody wrong.”


“We’re proud for him,” Robertson said. “I want the rest of our players to also be proud and work hard to achieve team as well as individual goals.”


While a Bulldog, Townsend helped lead AHS to a 101-26 record in his four years.