Bolton scored 30 points, and sharpshooters Marticia Jackson and Raven Cooley combined for 28 more to lead Anniston to a 64-53 victory over Jacksonville in Saturday’s Calhoun County girls’ championship game in Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews Coliseum.
Anniston (17-5) won its third county title in four years and sixth in eight years. Jacksonville (16-7) lost to Anniston in the final for the third time in four years, though the Golden Eagles beat Anniston in the final a year ago.
“It means a lot,” the Alabama-bound Bolton said. “I really didn’t want to go out losing my senior year.”
Bolton took part of the first half to adjust to defense from Jacksonville’s Virginia Poe but scored 20 points in the second half to finish as the tournament’s most valuable player.
Anniston coach Eddie Bullock understood why Jacksonville coach Ryan Chambless tried Poe, who plays more like a shooting guard/small forward, on Bolton.
“Poe is such a smart player,” Bullock said. “No disrespect for the other players ‘NeNe’ plays against, but you can’t get away with certain moves against her.”
Chambless said he made the decision to go with Poe on Bolton after trying it late in their Dec. 19 meeting, which Anniston won 58-39.
“I really thought Virginia did the best job on her (in the December game), so I went ahead and started her out on her,” Chambless said. “(Bolton) is such a matchup problem. She’s about 6-3, 6-4, and she can play inside and out.
“We don’t have anybody that size, and we don’t have anybody that can flow inside and out like that.”
Making matters tougher for Anniston’s opponents, the Bulldogs can flow inside and out like the Bulldogs’ 2009 state runner-up team did.
Jackson hit five 3-pointers and added an old-fashioned three-point play to finish with 18 points. Cooley scored 10 points, giving Anniston a triangle threat.
Both players made the all-tournament team, along with teammate Ki-Yana Bullock.
Bolton said Anniston’s perimeter threat “helps a lot. It helps to spread the defense out.”
Poe, meanwhile, led Jacksonville with 16 points. Six came on two 3-pointers during a 10-0 run that helped the Golden Eagles close to within 41-37 in the third quarter.
But Jackson answered with a 3-pointer to make it 44-37 and start a 10-2 Anniston spurt that carried into the fourth quarter. Jacksonville closed to within six points twice in the fourth quarter but came no closer.
Eddie Bullock said winning the country tournament is “a big deal.”
“This is the stepping stone that kind of catapults you to the state tournament,” he said. “You don’t play in the same kind of atmosphere (otherwise in the regular-season). This takes on a whole different entity of itself.
“You can beat a team in the regular season, and then you come in the county tournament, and they just beat you, so it’s a big deal. You have to play extremely hard in the semis and the finals to win.”
Dasia Kirksey added 15, and Angel Kidd had 12 for Jacksonville. Both made the all-tournament team joining Poe, and Kidd was the tournament’s most outstanding defensive player.
Jacksonville, too, is looking toward the possibility of facing Anniston in a sub-regional or Northeast Regional game.
“The championship of the county tournament is big,” Poe said, “but, in the end, it’s not the one that matters the most.”
Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, email@example.com. On Twitter @jmedley_star.