Throwback Thursday

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 22, 2015

Troy Turman dribbles past a defender during the Eagles' Final Four run.

Troy Turman dribbles past a defender during the Eagles’ Final Four run.

Most birds have to be forced from the nest when it comes time for them to learn to fly, but the Pleasant Home Eagles just seem to be born with the ability to soar.


The Eagles (26-4) reached new heights Thursday night at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center Arena when they sunk their talons into their second Class 1A State Championship in two years. The Eagles had to overcome a tough Akron Rams (24-7) squad and did so by a final score of 61-51.


Three-point shots were the weapon of choice for the Eagles in the early going. They fired up more three-pointers in the first half than most teams do in a game, going 4-for-16 from beyond the arc in the game.


Troy Turman started the three-point attack with a three-ball with 4:23 left in the opening period to give the Eagles a 10-6 lead.


Akron, however, battled back and held a 15-11 advantage at the end of the first period.


Senior Jon Gudson, who was in Birmingham for his fourth consecutive Final Four, tied the game moments later with a three-pointer. Gudson’s shot gave the Eagles a tie for the lead at 16-16 with 6:54 left in the second quarter.


Junior Author Coleman, who went on to be named MVP of the Class 1A Final Four, gave the Eagles the lead at 20-18 with a stunning drive to the basket that brought “ohhhs and ahhhs” from the crowd with 5:18 to go in the first half.


The game see-sawed back and forth the rest of the second quarter with the Rams taking the lead just before the half when Idris Williams canned a three-pointer with four ticks on the clock.


Trailing 28-27 at the start of the second half, the Eagles went inside after Gudson started the third quarter with another three-pointer.


Coleman scored six consecutive points for the Eagles as they built a 36-34 lead.


The Rams called a 30-second timeout to try and stall the Eagles’ momentum.


It didn’t work.


Coleman was “feeling it” and came out of the timeout on a mission.


He went to the basket for two and was fouled on the play. He stepped to the free-throw line and buried his free throw for a 39-34 Pleasant Home lead.


Foul trouble could have stopped the Eagles when Hunter McKathan fouled out with 2:35 left in the third, but senior forward Bryan Cox came in for McKathan, and the Eagles’ didn’t miss a beat.

The Eagles held on to their lead and Gudson sent a message at the end of the quarter with a three-pointer at the horn to give the Eagles’ a 43-36 advantage. Pleasant Home’s bench erupted when Gudson’s shot found the twine.


The Rams started the fourth quarter with a three-pointer and then Coleman went to the rack for two. Turman followed moments later with a layup after a steal to give the Eagles a 47-39 lead.


Cox increased the lead to 49-39 with 6:22 remaining before the Rams’ Charles Williams hit for two to make in an eight-point game.


Free-throw shooting became critical for the Eagles down the stretch and the players came through for head coach Anthony Clark making 10-of-14 along with a two-point basket from Cox for a 61-51 victory and back-to-back Class 1A State Championships.


The Eagles scored 18 points from three-point land and 17 from the free-throw line in the game. Clark said Gudson’s three-point shooting was a pleasant surprise after watching him struggle in the shoot around earlier in the day.


“We were in the shoot around today, and I didn’t see him make one,” Clark said. “I made him sit down.”


Clark’s confidence in Gudson’s shooting ability, however, never faded. When he squared up for the three-pointer at the end of the third Clark encouraged him to pull the trigger by saying “Pull.”


“That was a huge shot,” Clark said after the game. “It really got our kids pumped up.”


Akron head coach Scott Suttles agreed that Gudson’s three-point shooting was a big factor in the outcome of the game. However, he thought the three-pointer Idris Williams made at the end of the first half played a key role as well.


“I thought the three-pointer at the buzzer in the first half would help us,” Suttles said. “I told our kids the first three minutes of the second half would be critical and they were, Pleasant Home came out and played well.”


Cox’s performance was also something Clark commented on after the game.


He said Cox has been a leader all season and he was proud of the way he played when McKathan fouled out. Cox and the rest of the Eagles are the perfect players to coach, he said.


“It’s those kinds of kids that make our program special,” Clark said. “After the game, Bryan told me he would have rather played that fourth quarter than start any game.”


The Pleasant Home players were ready to celebrate after the game and Clark was ready to let them – on one condition.


“I told them they can’t talk about coming back to the Final Four until tomorrow,” Clark said.


For Pleasant Home, Turman had seven points; Gudson had 18; Cox had 4; McKathan had two; Huckabaa had two and Coleman had 28. Gudson had eight rebounds, McKathan had six and Coleman grabbed six. Huckabaa had six assists.


Bryant had 15 points for the Rams. Idris Williams and Charles Williams each scored 13 points. Phillip Bryan had 10 rebounds for the Rams.


The members of the Class 1A All-Tournament team are MVP Author Coleman of Pleasant Home, Jon Gudson of Pleasant Home, Troy Turman of Pleasant Home, Idris Williams of Akron, Kevin Johnson of Akron and Channing Patton of Hazlewood.