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Pruitt leads Patriots to win in regular-season finale

Hillcrest’s Z’Anthony Williams (12) and Mike Davis (11) defend against Bibb County’s Brandon Rutledge (21) during Tuesday night’s game. (Photo by Dusty Compton)

Junior Jarod Pruitt’s 22 points led Hillcrest to a 51-43 win over Bibb County in high schol basketball action Tuesday night.

The Patriots (22-4) wrapped up regular-season play and will advance to the Class 6A, Area 13 tournament.

Pruitt also had five rebounds for Hillcrest. Rayshawn Tubbs scored nine points and Mike Davis finished with six.

Hillcrest coach Scott Suttles said he was impressed with Pruitt’s play this season.

"(Pruitt) has really stepped up his offensive game, and what I’m more proud of than anything is his ability to alter and deflect shots," Suttles said.

Bibb County (23-5) pressured Hillcrest the entire game, but gave up 15 points off free throws, including four points to close out the game. Suttles said he is always stressing the importance of making free throws.

"We have to step up and knock our free throws down," Suttles said. "We normally shoot them fairly well, but sometimes we just don’t get to the free throw line enough. I’m sure some of these guys end up shooting free throws in their sleep sometimes."

Bibb County managed to cut Hillcrest’s lead to 39-37 by the end of the third quarter off Kevon Purifoy’s free throw and tied the game at 41 off a shot by Purifoy in the paint. Hillcrest stretched the lead to 45-41 when Tubbs hit a 3-pointer with less than three minutes remaining.

The Choctaws came out of a timeout and scored on a jump shot in the paint by Purifoy to make the score 45-43. Purifoy’s foul with 1:12 remaining led to Davis sinking two free throws for Hillcrest.

After an unsuccessful attempt to steal the ball off an inbounds pass, the Choctaws were forced into fouling Pruitt, who put the game out of reach.

"I was just so impressed with Bibb County’s length and athleticism," Suttles said. "Everybody knows about (Kevon) Purifoy, but (Bibb County’s) going to go a long way in the playoffs. It was a great test for both teams going into the postseason."

Purifoy led the Choctaws with 19 points. Artez Stacy added nine points.

Bibb County coach Russ Wallace said despite the loss he was proud of the way his team battled for the entire game.

"We stayed right there at their heels all game long, keeping the pressure on Hillcrest and having a chance," Wallace said. "I couldn’t be more proud of our guys."

Wallace said he always looks forward to playing Hillcrest because of its tough defense.

"Scott (Suttles) does such a good job defensively, which is why I like playing him because it makes us better," Wallace said. "You can’t say enough about Hillcrest. They’re so fundamentally sound, they’re going to defend you, and you have to work for every shot you get."

Hillcrest plays Bessemer City in the Area 13 tournament Friday at 6 p.m. at Tuscaloosa County High School. Bibb County hosts West Blocton in the Class 4A, Area 7 tournament Friday at 7:30 p.m.