Shelby County buzzer beater seals area title at John Carroll

The Shelby County High School Wildcats entered Jefferson County as a contender to win the 5A Area 8 tournament title Feb. 5. Monday night, they exited as champions with a 66-64 win over the John Carroll Cavaliers on their home court. A last second tip-in by Tyler Madison will allow another banner to be hung in Charles Dickinson Gymnasium.

For the first time in a long time, the Wildcats found themselves playing an area tournament championship game in a gymnasium other than the one that bears Dickinson’s name. After downing the Briarwood Christian Lions three nights earlier, the Cavs awaited with a hot hand.

Seeing Madison tip-in the game-winning basket at the end was especially enjoyable for Wildcats’ coach Charles Dickinson.

“This is the way we wanted it to end, but the route we took is the part we didn’t have planned,” Dickinson said after the win. “I thought we played well throughout the game except when they went on a run and we lost our composure.”

Tyler Lollar hit from all spots on the Cavs’ court to lead the Wildcats with 23 points. Tae Lewis added 15 and Jordan Simon finished with 14 points. Kevin McNorton finished the night with four blocked shots.

The Wildcats (20-5) will play host to Carver High School of Montgomery in a Class 5A sub-regional contest in the Alabama High School Athletic Association playoffs Friday night. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

After a sputtering first quarter, the visiting Wildcats held a slim 10-8 edge. However, the Cavs, led by Andre Sledge and his 12 first-half points, seemed as if they were shooting the ball into an ocean to ease into a 28-21 halftime lead.

Just inside the two-minute mark in the third period, a 3-point shot by Jordan Simon catapulted a second-half resurgence for Shelby County. Throughout the second half, the Cats led by as many as nine while only trailing once by one point.

While the Wildcats the managed to make the shots when they counted, they also saw leads quickly diminish by the sharpshooting Cavs and self-inflicted mistakes.

Being up by six wasn’t enough cushion to preserve the win for the Cats as a 6-0 run from the Cavs occurred with the final seconds trickling down. The thrilling game seemed destined for overtime as Ty Lollar’s last shot was off the mark.

However, Madison was in the right spot at the right time to seal the deal for his team. Most importantly, the Wildcat’s first last-second win this season came at a time that meant the most.

“I told them at the half, like I told them all year, we have to play the whole 32 minutes to win the game. I’m glad Tyler Madison was there to get the little tip in at the end,” Dickinson said.

“Tonight was the first time this type of game has went in our favor,” Dickinson said. “This is the very first time we have been on the winning side and it feels good to be able to win.”