Historic season comes to an end for Shelby County

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor 

MONTGOMERY – A historic season for the Shelby County Wildcats has come to an end after falling to the Central-Tuscaloosa Falcons in the Elite Eight at Alabama State’s Dunn-Oliver Acadome on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

Last year, the Wildcats fell 56-30 to the Falcons a round earlier in the Sweet 16, but in 2018, Shelby County has the accomplishment of making it to the Elite Eight to make them one of the eight best teams in the 5A classification this year.

The goal of not reaching the Final Four was obviously tough for the Wildcats to handle, but you could also got a sense of accomplishment from head coach Ashley Phillips when the team received its runner-up trophy from the Regional Championship game.

While Shelby County was looking to make it to the Final Four, the Falcons were just too tall and athletic for the Wildcats to keep up for the full 32 minutes of the game.

It led to Shelby County getting outrebounded by a large margin of 40-26 and also saw the Falcons force 17 Shelby County turnovers.

The Wildcats were actually able to pick up 14 steals and had seven less turnovers than Central, but were only able to manage a shooting mark of 31 percent, while the Falcons finished the game 50 percent from the field.

Central’s long arms and height made every basket tough to come by and it reflected in the shooting stats.

The start of the game wasn’t too bad for Shelby County, however. The Wildcats were actually able to take a 9-8 lead late in the first quarter thanks to Nataley Whitner, who had five points in the quarter, including an and-1.

Central-Tuscaloosa was able to respond at the end of the opening quarter with a 6-0 run to take a 14-9 lead at the end of the period.

Shelby County was able to cut the deficit to two points at 17-15 midway through the second quarter, but the Falcons went on to end the period on a 13-1 run to really take control with a 30-16 halftime lead.

While the Wildcats had a 4-1 advantage on the offensive boards in the first quarter, Central turned that around in the second quarter by outrebounding the Wildcats 9-2 on the offensive end, which led to several second chance opportunities for the Falcons.

Shelby County needed to come out and light up the offensive end of the floor in the third period, but instead continued its struggles shooting the ball.

While the defense did its job, the Wildcats’ offense made just one field goal in the period as the two teams combined for just 11 points.

It led to a 15-point 36-21 deficit heading to the fourth quarter, which gave Shelby County a large mountain to climb.

The Wildcats started to use their press in the final quarter, which caused some issues for Central, but they weren’t able to make enough baskets to set up the press as often as they needed to in order to overcome the 15-point deficit.

They went just 5-13 in the quarter to end the game shooting 13-42 from the field, which was good enough for just 31-percent and led to the 55-31 loss.

Whitner ended the game as Shelby County’s leading scorer with 15 points, while also adding six rebounds and four steals. She ended up being the only scorer in double figures.

Aaliyah Cotton and Maggie West were both named to the All-Tournament team for their efforts throughout the Regional tournament.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com