Montevallo, Briarwood fight to the end

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – Montevallo had won four consecutive games coming into its matchup with Class 5A Briarwood on Tuesday, Dec. 6, and had done so in impressive fashion behind Da’Shaunte Smith who has averaged more than 25 points, five rebounds and five assists per game this season.

They ended up in a defensive battle with Briarwood and had their lowest point total of the season, but were able to hang on for a hard-fought 50-46 win over the Lions and extend their win streak to five games.

“I’m proud of my guys,” Montevallo head coach Greg Dickinson said after the game. “They came out and executed everything we went over in practice. We had two games back-to-back so I thought they would be a little tired, but they came out and performed.”

Briarwood started out hot on the offensive end from the tip of the game. Smith won the tip, but it went right to a Lions player who assisted to Carson Donnelley running wide open down the lane for an easy layup to go up 2-0.

Smith made it known early that he had the green light to shoot the deep ball and came out firing. He missed his first three, but made his second to give the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead. He would go 1-5 from behind the arc in the first quarter and 2-2 from the free throw line as he accounted for his team’s first five points in the quarter. He did however have a couple of no-look passes to teammate Tre’Shawn Brown who converted both to baskets for Montevallo’s other four points in the quarter.

The Lions went on a 10-4 run the rest of the first behind a couple of late three balls from Carson Donnelley and Barrett Tindell to take a 13-9 lead into the second.

In the second quarter, Briarwood struggled to guard Smith as he drained three deep balls for 12 of Montevallo’s 18 points in the quarter. The Bulldogs took advantage of his scoring and went on an 18-7 run to take a 27-20 halftime lead.

Briarwood head coach Bobby Kerley made adjustments at halftime and decided to face-guard Smith in the second half, a strategy that worked for the most part as he didn’t make another three the rest of the night.

Smith decided to get in the post on the first possession, which worked as he made an easy layup and then appeared to walk over and have words for Kerley. Briarwood was able to keep Smith from making a basket the rest of the quarter, which led to excitement from one of the players who decided to clap in the face of Smith, which drew a quick technical foul from the official.

“He does a good job of keeping his head and finding ways to get open,” Dickinson said of Smith getting frustrated in the third. “Usually it’s the other team that loses their head having to stop him.”

After all of the excitement of the third quarter, the Lions had gone on a 17-11 run behind five different scorers including six points from Tindell. Headed to the fourth Briarwood had trimmed the lead to just one point as they trailed 38-37.

“We had to change it up a little bit and put a lot of pressure on them because we know they can shoot it very well,” Dickinson said of his team’s defensive change heading to the fourth. “Our job was to switch every screen they set on us and protect the three.”

Montevallo came out and made an early free throw and jump shot to go up 43-39. The lions answered with two Luke Miskelley free throws and a steal from Izaiah Jones, which led to a layup off the outlet pass and fast break to bring the game to a 43-43 tie with 2:10 left to play. Smith knocked down two free throws on the Bulldogs’ next possession to retake the lead. Not long after Miskelley took another three that found the bottom of the net to give Briarwood its first lead since it was 13-12 in the second quarter. With 1:30 left the Lions led 46-45.

Briarwood had several great opportunities, but struggled the rest of the game to make any of their open shots. They trailed 48-46 with 25 seconds left to play, but missed two open three-point baskets and were forced to foul Smith with 9.5 seconds left. He knocked down both free throws to help the Bulldogs end the game on a 5-0 run to win 50-46.

Montevallo shot 8-10 from the free throw line in the fourth to seal the win and shot 15-19 from the line for the game.

Smith, who hasn’t scored less than 20 points this year, led Montevallo with 22 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Brown added 12 points and eight assists, while Daqwan Bryant had nine points. Donnelley led Briarwood with 11 points and was the Lions only double-digit scorer.