An extra period didn't seem to bother his team, however. After Alexandria sent Friday's Calhoun County Tournament semifinal into overtime with Gabe Marchal's 3-pointer, Ware's Bulldogs pulled out an 80-78 victory.
The second-seeded Bulldogs (15-6) now will play fourth-seeded Sacred Heart in today's championship game at 8 p.m.
“I told them going into overtime it’s a new game, we’re going to take our time, apply pressure on defense and we were going to be OK. I knew if they listened we’d be OK,” Ware said. “I knew if everyone kept their composure then we’d be OK. A lot of kids don’t like that kind of pressure, but I told them to just be patient and do what they were supposed to do.”
The veteran coach was correct and the Bulldogs were OK, despite trailing 73-69 early in overtime. Two free throws by Qua Frazier and two more by Tray Croft tied the game 73-73. The two teams continued to battle and wound up tied again 78-78 with 1:08 left.
After the Bulldogs kept Alexandria from scoring again, Anniston’s Quint Dobbins produced the biggest play of the night for his team.
Demarcus Thomas came up short on a drive from midcourt, but Dobbins was in the right place at the right time and put in the game-deciding bucket with 4.5 seconds left.
“I had a feeling it was going to come out,” Dobbins said. “I thought Marcus was going to make it, but it did come out, and I just put it back in.”
Anniston was led by Thomas, who scored 25 points. Dobbins added 11 points and seven rebounds, while Qua Frazier had 16 points. Hakeem Ross had 13, and Quin Jackson had 10 rebounds and six points.
Alexandria (14-6) was led by Alton Davis, who scored 17 points. Dakota Kelley added 12 points, Luke Tucker had 11 and Marchal 11.
The win puts Anniston back in the county championship game for the first time since 2009, when the Bulldogs capped a run of three straight titles.
“We wanted to win just to show that we can’t be beat in the county,” Thomas said. “We’ve just got to keep it up. If we want to win this and get to state we have to show that we can’t be beat and do work.”
The championship game will feature the first meeting between Ware and Sacred Heart coach Ralpheal Graves. Graves played for Ware’s 2002 state championship team and was a member of the coaching staff for the 2009 state championship squad.
“A couple of years ago, he tried to get a game with us, but our schedule was full and you hate to drop somebody when you’ve been playing them. You know how that is,” Ware said. “They’ve got a good shooting team. They’re young like we are and shoot the ball well. (Graves) does a good job with them.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.