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Stampede marches into foreign territory


Paul W. Bryant coach Shon Peck-Love leads the Stampede into the Class 5A semifinals today. (Photo by Robert Sutton)


CLASS 5A SEMIFINALS

Paul W. Bryant vs. Wenonah

When: 1:30 p.m.

Where: BJCC Arena in Birmingham

Records: Paul W. Bryant (30-3); Wenonah (32-2)

TUSCALOOSA | The Paul W. Bryant boys basketball team took an unprecedented step when it won two games in Montgomery to become the Central Regional champion. The reward for the Stampede is a first-time appearance in the AHSAA Class 5A semifinals.

Paul W. Bryant, ranked No. 2 in the final Alabama Sports Writers Association poll, takes on Wenonah, which finished as the No. 1-ranked team in Class 5A. Wenonah beat East Limestone 87-56 and Parker 58-54 to win the Northwest Regional title in Hanceville.

Paul W. Bryant was a regional

runner-up a year ago, but coach Shon Peck-Love’s team features seven seniors this season. The Stampede downed Talladega 69-43 and won the regional championship with a 52-44 victory over Shelby County.

"For our school as a whole, for a long time we’ve been a stepchild to a lot of the Tuscaloosa city and Tuscaloosa County schools," Peck-Love said. "This is something that’s been in the process for several years. With this group of seniors, we’re seeing this starting to take shape and take form and being able to visualize and realize things."

Peck-Love already knows he has a versatile, athletic team. The starters against Shelby County were Demontae Duff and James Currington at forward and Dexter Hood, Marcus Anthony and Kevin Holland at guard.

Currington scored 18 points and had seven rebounds, four steals and two assists.

Hood added 10 points, and Holland scored seven. Tony Whitehead, a forward, came off the bench to score 12 points.

David Freeman is a guard who comes off the bench and presents a threat as a 3-point shooter. He made one 3-pointer against Shelby County, but he made five in a regular-season game.

Hood causes problems with his 6-foot-3 size. He’s big enough to drive against smaller defenders, and he can shoot the 3-pointer. Hood has averaged 16.8 points in five postseason games.

"We know this is a critical time," Hood said. "This being my senior year, I know this won’t come again for me, so I have to cherish this moment."

Defense is a key component in Peck-Love’s philosophy. Shelby County managed to shoot 47.1 percent from the field, but the Stampede came up with nine steals and held 6-4 forward Tyler Madison to six points. Madison is a UAB signee.

"As long as we’re playing together, playing team basketball and sharing the ball, our weaknesses are very, very few," Peck-Love said. "When we get outside of what we practice, what we talk about, what we do, then things start to open up and we start to go different ways. We haven’t done that much this year. We’ve pretty much stayed the course. These guys are very focused about what they want to accomplish, and we’re just going to finish it out."

Faith Academy (20-11) plays Center Point (25-7) in the other semifinal game at 10:30 this morning. The championship game will be at 7 p.m. Friday.

 

Reach Andrew Carroll at andrew.carroll@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0223.