Lions make first playoff appearance since 2006

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

SYLACAUGA – For the fourth time this season, Shelby County and Briarwood met on the hardwood, but this time with a little more on the line.

Both teams finished regular season area play with a middle of the pack 3-3 record. Unlike the first three times these two teams met, it was a win or go home game for each this time around. After only allowing Shelby County to take one lead at 3-2, Briarwood dominated the game winning 71-46.

“Coach (Cedric) Drake has been doing great things with them and it has been a fun series of games because he always has something new and different that keeps me on my toes, so we try to do something different with them too so it was just fun from a gamesmanship standpoint,” Briarwood head coach Bobby Kerley said.

Not only does this keep the Lions’ season alive, but it marks the first time Briarwood has made the playoffs since 2006 now that they will appear in the Sub-Regionals.

“The unity that this group has, has made this so much fun,” Kerley said. “You walk into the gym every day and they just seem happy to be there.”

Luke Miskelley started the scoring with a layup for Briarwood, which was immediately answered by a 3-0 run for Shelby County to give them their only lead of the game. The Lions went on a 12-2 run to close out the quarter and take a 14-5 lead after one.

Brandon Green came out and started the second quarter with a fast break dunk as the Wildcats went on a 4-0 run to get within five. Thanks to six early points from Green in the quarter, Shelby County was able to battle back and eventually get within three at 19-16.

“Anytime you play Brandon Green, you better be ready to roll,” Kerley said boastingly of the Wildcats standout.

Briarwood, however, didn’t like how close things were getting and went on an 8-2 run to close out the quarter and extend the lead to nine at 27-18. The Wildcats lived and died by the deep ball in the second quarter shooting a ton of them, but at a very low percentage.

The third quarter was a quarter of runs as Briarwood started the period on a 10-2 run to jump up 37-20. At this point it looked like they were starting to run away with it, but Shelby County answered with an 8-0 run to climb back into it and only trail by nine. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the Lions ended the quarter with the last run as they outscored Shelby County 8-0 in the last two minutes thanks to three straight possessions that featured two 3-pointers and a layup.

Briarwood had grabbed almost a 20-point lead at 45-28 heading to the final period in which they did not let up.

After a four-point play from Michael Hiers, who was on fire the entire night, to start the final period, Briarwood had built a 49-33 lead and didn’t look back the rest of the way. As has been the trend of late for the Lions they closed the game with their strongest offensive quarter posting 26 points, while limiting the Wildcats to just 18 on their way to the 71-46 final.

“The pressure is there for everybody and teams with great leaders really help in this situation,” Kerley said of his team’s composure in the game. “You should really only be nervous when you are unprepared.”

Hiers led the way for Briarwood with a game-high 21 points. Overall, as they normally do, the Lions used a balanced effort that featured four double-digit scorers. Barrett Tindall had 13, Carson Donnelly posted 12 and Luke Miskelley added 11. On the other side, Shelby County only had one double-figure scorer, which was Green with 14.