Day two of 2014 Steel City Invitational fueled by momentum

By: Alec Lewis

Day two of the Steel City Invitational took Friday’s momentum and ran with it. From the Pete Hanna Center to Seibert Hall, incredible talent and passion for the game of basketball could be found in everywhere, even in the equipment room. From a coach earning “the greatest win in his career,” to a Samford equipment manager washing jerseys in between games, 12 games were played and headlines were made as teams advanced into championship Monday. Saturday morning’s second round contests featured, J.O. Johnson knocking off 5A No. 1 Ramsay, Theodore came back to beat Hoover and Cullman beat 7A No. 1 Mountain Brook on a shot with just seconds left on the clock. In the afternoon and night wave, competitive basketball continued to be played, as four teams matched up in the semi-final games.

The second round contests set the entire tone for the day. Tipping off first was J.O. Johnson and Ramsay followed by Theodore and Hoover, Mountain Brook and Cullman, and Faith Academy and Tuscaloosa County.

Two high-caliber programs, J.O. Johnson and Ramsay, opened the second day the Pete Hanna Center. In the end, John Petty was simply too much for the Ramsay Rams, as he was able to lead his team to a 63-62 victory scoring 29 points.

Next up Theodore and Hoover took the stage in the Hanna Center. Former Alabama player and current Alabama assistant coach Antoine Pettway was in attendance to watch Alabama signee Dazon Ingram of Theodore. His leadership and resiliency sparked a 42-18 second half propelling the Bobcats to a semifinal against J.O. Johnson. The final score of the game: 75-62.

“It meant a lot to me for him to be out there,” said Ingram after his wowing 28 point, 14 rebound and 7 assist performance. It shows that they’re invested in me and I think it helped my play.”

Mountain Brook then took the court against Cullman. The Bearcats came out firing but the Spartans certainly did too. After trailing by 10 points at halftime, Cullman’s Lawson Schaffer lit up Pete Hanna Center knocking down back-to-back threes and a mid-range pull up jumper to seal the 72-71 win for his team.

“I won games in the final four my first year coaching and beat a number one team then in Sumter County. This win is bigger because it’s a 7A school and a two time defending state champion,” said Cullman coach Bobby Meyer. “We don’t have anybody over 6’2” or a buck-sixty (pounds) so I was really, really happy we came out with the win.”

While fans were kept entertained by the action on the court, staff and volunteers kept things flowing behind the scenes. Following the Cullman contest and many of the games before, Samford’s assistant equipment manager Wes Wilhoite was tasked with washing the team’s jerseys in a span of four hours to have them ready for the semifinals at night.

“So basically after the games this morning the coaches came by and asked if I could [wash] their game uniforms for them,” said Wilhoite. “There weren’t really any special requests because I do this on a daily basis but I do have to say, my favorite jersey was Cullman’s.”

As the jerseys were being cycled through the dryers in the Pete Hanna Center, Faith Academy and Tuscaloosa County tipped off the final 2nd round contest.

Faith Academy and Tuscaloosa County capped of the second round on Saturday. The Wildcats’ Cletrell Pope and Justice Green combined for 30 points but Faith’s Shawn Benard stole the show by scoring 19 points, grabbing 9 rebounds and garnering 8 steals leading to a 64-56 win.

Then, two hours later began the semifinals at the Steel City. The matchups featured Theodore versus J.O. Johnson and Faith Academy versus Cullman. The excitement of these final four teams in the battle to take home the rim brought many fans, a number of coaches and even a television network. At this year’s Steel City, My68 WABM televised the semifinal games and will also televise the championship on Monday night at 8 p.m.

The Steel City Invitational scored the television deal in only the second year of existence. On dealing with the television, Knight-Eady’s Chief Developement officer Chris Nix explained, “TV’s been great. They’ve been good to work with and it’s always good for fans who aren’t able to come. It’s definitely added to credibility of the tournament.”

With the cameras flipped on and the stage set, the semifinal’s were ready to begin.

Theodore and J.O. Johnson were the first to tip off in the semi’s. The Jaguars’ Petty made a profound impact in the first with 11 points including three, three-pointers. In the second, after trailing 34-30 at halftime, Theodore’s Ingram again came out firing–this time under the watchful eye of Alabama coach Anthony Grant. His athleticism, ability to finish and 29 points and 12 rebounds drove his Bobcats to the lead but ultimately J.O. was too much as they advanced to the championship winning, 77-70.

“I went to the hotel, ate and got a good nap in so I was definitely ready for this game,” said J.O. Johnson’s John Petty. “Coach told us to go out and give our all, act like it’s a normal practice because we came down here to win and nobody thought we could.”

Capping off day two, Cullman’s hopes in duplicating their performance against Mountain Brook in their semi-final matchup against Faith Academy were challenged early by Faith’s up-tempo style. Faith’s Benard picked up right where he left off, and with the help of Devin Brown, the Rams jumped out to a 39-28 lead at halftime. In the 3rd, Cullman’s efforts to stall the Rams’ offense were unsuccessful and they wound up falling, 84-58.

In Seibert Hall, teams continued to compete in the consolation bracket. In the second round games, Clay-Chalkville topped Bessemer City 7–63. Bibb Country advanced over Fairfield 44-32, and Midfield stole the show over defending Steel City champ, Parker 48-39. The Grissom Tigers took down Wenonah 69-52 to advance to the afternoon round.

Clay-Chalkville and Bibb Country faced off in the afternoon, and Bibb Country kept up the pace to defeat Clay 51-44. In the final consolation game of the night, Midfield and Grissom met on the court, and Grissom stole the show to beat Midfield 54-44. Each team will play their final game on Monday, where the bracket is set with a slew of competitive matchups.

Day two wrapped up a slew of 20 games in just over 32 hours. With Sunday off, that leaves one day, championship Monday, for the Steel City Invitational competitors, coaches and even equipment managers alike to “Steel the Show.”







Steel City Invitational puts players on the big stage

By: Alec Lewis On day one of the Steel City Invitational, eight games were played, many teams advanced and some of Alabama’s top teams and players were spotlighted on center stage. Sixteen premier high school basketball teams went head-to-head for … Continue reading