Throwback Thursday

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 1, 2015

Albert Weeden Jr. glides to the basket.

Albert Weeden Jr. glides to the basket.

Defense wins championships, and no 5A team in the state can play defense like the 1996 Andalusia Bulldogs.


Richard Robertson’s Bulldogs proved that by burying B.C. Rain 60-45 in the 5A State Championship game on Saturday at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center to give the school its first-ever state title in basketball.


The Bulldogs’ defense was in high gear from the opening tip, propelling the Bulldogs to a 16-3 lead after the first eight minutes of action.


Andalusia limited the seventh-ranked Red Raiders to 27 percent shooting in the first half, and only 31 percent for the entire contest.


Fred Gantt got things started on the defensive end for Andalusia with a steal in the opening minute of the contest. Gantt was unable to convert at the other end, but helped set the tone for the game.


Seconds after Gantt’s miss, Joey Ball got in on the act. Ball intercepted a B.C. Rain pass, and found Tomeko Matthews under the basket for the first score of the game.


Four points each from Ball and Matthews over the next three minutes pushed the Andalusia lead to 10-0 before B.C. Rain knew what had hit them.


“A fast start was very important in us winning the game,” Robertson said. “ It allowed us to set the tempo the rest of the game.”


The defense remained strong for the rest of the quarter, but the Bulldogs began having offensive troubles following Matthew’s basket, and whenever the Bulldogs need a bucket they put the ball in the hands of senior guard Albert Weeden Jr.


A drive by Weeden with just over a minute left in the quarter pushed the lead to 12-0, and the senior was just warming up.


B.C. Rain’s Kendrick Cleveland hit a 3-pointer from the corner to finally put the Red Raiders on the board, but Weeden would convert on two more gravity-defying drives to the basket to put Andy in front 16-3 after eight minutes of action.


The 13-point first quarter advantage turned out to be the real difference in the game.


“I thought they started the game like they wanted to win a state championship, while we looked like we were trying not to lose one,” B.C. Rain coach Rick Pietri said. “ We dug ourselves a huge hole in the first quarter, and they never let us get all the way out of it.”


B.C. Rain began to get some production from their 6-8 center, Alex Block, in the second quarter, but even with 6 second-quarter points by they big man could get the Red Raiders no closer than 10 points at the break. Solid defense kept the Bulldogs’ lead near double digits in the opening minutes of the second half, before the Red Raiders began to heat up from behind the arc. The Red Raiders hit three 3-pointers in a row to cut the lead to 29-23, but that was as close as they would get the rest of the way.


Two points each by Weeden and Ball, and 4 points from Sheridan pushed Andalusia’s advantage back to 8 by the end of the quarter, and they would outscore the Red Raiders 23-16 in the final stanza for a 60-45 win.


“With us, defense is always the key,” Robertson said. “We were able to hold an outstanding team to under our defensive goal (50 points), and when we hold you under 50 points we are supposed to win.”


The victory was the biggest in the history of the tradition-rich Andalusia basketball program.


“I’m sure I will reflect on this in the future, but this is really more for the players and the fans,” Robertson said. “They only have four years at Andalusia High School, but as long as I stay healthy I could stay here forever.”


“We have had some great players in the past at Andalusia High School, but we don’t have anything but blue collar players on this team,” Robertson said. “They (players) will work, and I think it shows in their performance. Everybody has their role on this team, and each one was equally important in us winning.”


Weeden finished with a game-high 24 points and was named 5A State Tournament MVP. He also added 6 steals and made 10 of 13 free throws in the final quarter. Sheridan and Mathews led Andalusia with a game-high 11 rebounds and he added 15 points. Sheridan scored 11 points in the final and added 5 rebounds and a game-high 4 assists. Other scorers for Andalusia were Ball with 8 points, and Rashilli Quarker and Cedric Dorsey with 1 point each.


Andalusia finishes with a school-record 32-4 mark.