Warriors win Holiday Classic

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Thompson Warriors fought from behind to defeated Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa in the championship game of the 2006 Thompson Holiday Classic Saturday night.

The Warriors (4-1) avenged their only loss of the young season against previously undefeated (7-1) Hillcrest on the road.

&8220;We&8217;ll see them again… down the road,&8221; said Thompson head basketball coach Jeff Nichols. &8220;We have another regular season game with them. That&8217;s our cross area.&8221;

He said hopefully, if Thompson makes it out of its area, the Warriors will face one of the teams in Hillcrest&8217;s area. &8216;We&8217;ll keep a close eye on them all year long,&8221; he said.

&8220;We&8217;re kind of using them as a measuring stick as to our improvement,&8221; said Nichols. &8220;We&8217;ve got to work hard enough to compete with good teams like them.&8221;

Nichols said the Thompson schedule is loaded with good teams including Hoover, Vestavia, Oak Mountain and Spain Park. &8220;We don&8217;t play anybody that&8217;s not any good.&8221;

Hillcrest came out of the blocks with a 7-0 lead in the early seconds of the ball game and it looked the visiting team would be unstoppable. But the Warriors rallied to tie the game at 13-13 in the second period and to trail but just three points at the half 26-23.

By the end of the third period, however, Thompson led by six 40-34. The Warriors clung to the lead the rest of the way and pull out the 61-47 win.

The Warriors were led by tournament Most Valuable Player Gary Cunningham with 20 points and Laderreous Kelley with 14.

Hillcrest was paced by All Tournament Team players Wayne Dedrick with 16 points and John David Smelser with 14.

On the way to the championship game, Thompson defeated Bib County 64-38 and Oak Mountain 62-26.

Nichols said, &8220;I felt we played three solid games, three very good defensive games. We played well in all four quarters of every game.&8221;

He said Cunningham carried the team when it trailed early against Hillcrest. When the team was missing acrobatic shots, Cunningham took the ball to the hoop &8220;to get us back close to where we could settle down.&8221;

Also named to the All Tournament Team for the Warriors were Jaquezz Brown and Dameion Bland.

He also recognized the solid play at guard by Keynan Jackson.

Five games into the season, Cunningham is 27-57 for field goals, 7-12 for free throws, has 31 rebounds and six assists and is 6-22 from three-point range for an average of 13.4 points per game.

Kelley is 28-44 for field goals, 10-13 in free throws, has 21 rebounds and two assists for an average of 13.2 points per game.

The Warriors have outscored their opponents 299-237 and have an 80 percent winning percentage.

The only other local team in the Thompson Holiday Classic was the Oak Mountain Eagles (2-3), who defeated Good Hope 70-45, lost to Thompson 62-46 and fell to Robert E. Lee in the third place contest.

Robert E. Lee 66, Oak Mountain 52:

Oak Mountain head basketball coach Jerry North said Stephen Jordan had a good tournament rebounding and playing hard and stepped it up a notch. Jordan led the Eagles against Robert E. Lee with 13 points and seven rebounds.

Drew Herring added 11 for Oak Mountain.

The biggest difference in the Oak Mountain/Robert E. Lee contest was the fact that Robert E. Lee made 25 of 27 free throws.

Brandon Crawford led Robert E. Lee with 18 points and Jeremy Williams had 15.

North said of the tournament, &8220;We won one game, but we&8217;ve improved.&8221;

He continued, &8220;We&8217;ve had our bright spots, but we&8217;re so young that we make a lot of mistakes, especially handling the ball, throwing it away.

In other Thompson Holiday Classic action Hewitt-Trussville beat Good Hope 66-22 and Clay-Chalkville defeated Bibb County 56-55.