Andy native, Elba win 1st state title

Published 12:01 am Saturday, March 1, 2014

Elba coach Karl Bledsoe, an Andalusia native, coaches during the Red Level Christmas tournament. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Elba coach Karl Bledsoe, an Andalusia native, coaches during the Red Level Christmas tournament. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Not long after Elba beat Luverne 66-61 Friday afternoon to win the Class 2A state basketball championship at the BJCC Arena in Birmingham, Karl Bledsoe made sure he spoke with Andalusia boys coach Richard Robertson.

Bledsoe, an Andalusia native who played under Robertson in high school, said he sought out the legendary Bulldogs coach soon after his EHS boys team held up the blue map for the first time in school history.

“I talked to coach Robertson after the game and I made sure that I let him know that the reason I am where I am today as a coach is because of him, and the things he taught me,” Bledsoe said. “Our philosophies are very much the same. I talk about coach Robertson all the time — the guys talk to me about coach Robertson. His name is used freely in our locker room a lot very often.”

Bledsoe said Robertson is a big part of his success, and taught him how to act in victory and in defeat.

This state championship for Bledsoe was his first as a head coach. Back in 1987, he was an assistant on a Charles Henderson team that finished runner up.

Friday’s game was the third time that Elba and Luverne played each other this season. LHS beat EHS in the championships of the Andalusia and Red Level Christmas tournaments.

Elba didn’t fair too well in its first meeting at the Andalusia tournament, but played better defense at Red Level, despite it being a close loss.

Bledsoe said the difference Friday was — other than scoring more points — his team’s perimeter shooting.

“We made some big shots from there,” he said.

The defense helped too, Bledsoe said.

“The main thing tonight was our defense, and we just kept our composure,” the Elba coach said. “I kept telling them that it’s one possession at a time and to just keep chipping away and chipping away at the lead; and if you do that, we’ll have a chance to win in the end.”

It was a tight ball game all the way until the fourth period, where both teams were tied with four minutes left in the contest.

Martavious Gray led EHS with 20 points. He went 8-for-17 from the field, which included going 4-for-10 from the arch. Cobe Goosby paced the EHS Tigers with 17 points, hitting 9-of-14 from the line. Denzell Thomas chipped in 12 points.

Luverne’s Quindarius Thagard scored 20 points, and Preston Sankey had 17.

Bledsoe said he is so “proud” of his and what they accomplished.

“I’m just real proud for the boys, for the school and for the town of Elba,” he said. “This is something they’ve wanted for a long time, and I’m just happy that we were able to bring it home for them.”