By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
Fairview’s varsity boys basketball team was supposed to have the county’s best offense, and West Point was supposed to have the best defense.
After Saturday night’s 52-37 final at Wallace State’s Tom Drake Coliseum, apparently the Aggies have both — and they have the hardware to prove it.
Blake Parker played his big-man role to perfection with blocks, rebounds and points aplenty, and Elijah Garrison was once again a scoring machine, propelling Fairview to its second county title in the last three years.
One season after the Warriors took the crown from the Purple and Gold, Parker firmly believes the winner’s trophy is back where it belongs in Aggie land.
“Oh yeah. Last year, we got upset I think,” the senior said. “This year, it wasn’t happening again.”
Defense reigned supreme in the first half, which was evident by West Point’s 20-14 lead heading into the locker room.
It didn’t take long for the action to heat up in the third quarter, however, as Parker and Garrison teamed up to close the gap, even the score and then take the lead about five minutes in.
Parker swished a pair of free throws — a common occurence, seeing as he was a perfect 10 of 10 from the charity stripe — to tie it up, and Garrison sunk the go-ahead basket shortly thereafter.
By then, the momentum was completely with Fairview, which outscored the Warriors 16-4 in the third quarter and 38-17 in the second half.
“We came out looking like crap,” Garrison said with a laugh, referring to the Aggies’ slow start. “Coach (Greg Boatright) told us to go back to playing our ball, so we knew we had to match their intensity on defense and get easy buckets. We just went out there and played.”
As the clock ticked down to less than a minute in the fourth quarter and the outcome had all-but-been decided, Fairview’s players began to get downright giddy. After the game, Parker recalled how he provided a bit of comic relief during one of his squad’s late breakdowns, accidentally shouting, “We’re not winning,” instead of, “We’re not losing,” like the rest of his teammates.
“It gave us a good laugh,” he said with a smile.
Parker has done most of his damage during the Aggies’ current seven-game win streak on defense and with his leadership, but he was at the forefront of Fairview’s offensive outburst on Saturday with a game-high 16 points.
“Every one scores on our team,” said Parker, an easy inclusion on the All-Tournament Team. “We don’t have one solid scorer every night. It just felt really good to do that at the county tournament.”
Garrison and Luke Bailey were also picked for the tourney’s top squad after posting 14 and eight points, respectively.
Andy Hendrix made his mark with nine points but was also responsible for quite a few momentum-swinging plays, including a monster block of West Point’s Ryder Jones and a pivotal three-point play in the third quarter.
Peter Kessler pitched in five points for the Aggies (19-6).
The Warriors (17-9) were led by Tristan Dubberly’s 11 points off the bench. Kris Keller was good for nine points; Nick Nuss, six; Josh Looney, Wesley Smith and Jordan McKenzie, three apiece; and Jones, two.
Looney and Smith were represented on the All-Tournament Team.
Unlike their junior varsity counterparts, Fairview and West Point still have a few weeks to go in the regular season before area, sub-region and region tournaments begin. The Northwest Regional Tournament will start Feb. 18 on the very same floor the Aggies secured the county trophy.
“We hope we’ll be down here again,” Garrison said before Parker cut him off.
“We’re going to be,” the senior countered.
Parker and Bailey, as well as Smith and Keller were also selected for the All-County Team, which was voted on by all seven local coaches. The remaining members were Lance Stanley, Vinemont; Alex Cofer, Good Hope; Brontae Harris and Chris Smith, Hanceville; Chayse Elliott, Triston Chambers and Layne Rice, Cold Springs; and Colby Adams and Gunter Morris, Holly Pond.
Vinemont’s Logan Wallace and Hanceville’s Sheldon Lewis were dual recipients of the Eli Thomas Memorial Scholarship, while Cold Springs’ Elliott received the Joe Shults Award.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at email@example.com.