When things went wrong, however, they went wrong in a hurry during the fourth quarter of Thursday’s Class 4A boys’ semifinals.
Guntersville used a 17-2 run to wipe out a 10-point Anniston lead in the final 6:22 and withstood Demarcus Thomas' miraculous shot at the buzzer to win 54-52 in in Jacksonville State University's Pete Mathews Coliseum.
Guntersville (24-7) will play the Madison County-Hokes Bluff winner Saturday at 5:20 p.m. Anniston finishes 21-7 and sooner than the Bulldogs thought they should have.
“Tough loss,” Anniston coach Schuessler Ware said. “We led the whole game but didn’t do some smart stuff, and you know what happens.”
Nathaniel Kennedy led Guntersville with 17 points, hitting five of 15 3-point shots. Darris Stewart had 14 points and was big down the stretch, and Jordan Bentley added 13.
Anniston led 47-37 after a bucket and free throw from Tray Croft with 6:22 to play, but Guntersville stormed back. A Stewart jumper gave the Wildcats the lead, 50-49, with 1:31 to play.
Stewart added another jumper at 0:49 and hit two free throws at 0:12.
“We just kept grinding, and it came down to defense,” Guntersville coach Fred Steger said. “If we could stop them on their possession, and it’s a hard, because they’re extremely quick and very athletic, and they’ve got a lot of players that can do a lot of different things.
“And we just kept executing our offense and looking to the middle of the floor and going inside-out.”
Anniston had its chances after falling behind 52-49, but Qua Frazier missed a 3 at 0:36. Quin Jackson got a steal on the ensuing possession, but Croft missed a forced, fall-away 3 in the corner at 0:14.
Anniston committed six turnovers and went 1-for-5 from the floor and 0-for-3 from the free-throw line during Guntersville’s 17-2 run.
“They started gaining momentum, playing off emotion, playing off the crowd, and they just got back in the game,” Frazier said. “We were rushing our shots. We weren’t concentrating and just rushing our shots.”
Frazier and Quint Dobbins led Anniston with 15 points apiece, and Dobbins had 10 rebounds. The Bulldogs had 25-15 rebounding edge en route to a 28-19 halftime lead.
But Guntersville played nearly even (16-15) with the Bulldogs on the boards in the second half and finished with just a 32-30 disadvantage in the paint.
“In the locker room, we were talking about how we needed to come out with more hustle,” said Bentley, who led Guntersville with 11 rebounds. “We were obviously outhustled in the first half. In the second half, we decided to play and actually go, all five of us, to the board and rebound.”
Anniston’s season ended with Thomas’ wild 3-point shot.
He ran down Frazier’s desperation 3-point shot in the corner, by Anniston’s bench, and launched the ball toward the basket while flying out of bounds. It went in for the game’s final points and most sensational shot.
It was small consolation for Anniston, which figured on playing another day.
“It’s real hard,” Frazier said. “We should have won the game by 15 points, because they weren’t better than we were. We should have beat them. We just made mistakes, too many mistakes, shooting crazy shots.”
Contact Sports Columnist Joe Medley at email@example.com. On Twitter, @jmedley_star.