By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
JACKSONVILLE — Austin Smith isn't quite ready for his season to come to a close.
The sophomore forward went beast mode for Holly Pond on Thursday afternoon at Jacksonville State, scoring 20 points and gathering 16 rebounds, three steals and three blocks in the Broncos' 72-65 overtime thriller over Weaver in the Class 3A Northeast Regional semifinals.
"It was a great win for our team," coach Mitch Morris said. "Austin has grown up all season and played a fantastic game for us today."
The tightly-contested matchup saw both teams tied at each quarter break 17-17, 31-31, 43-43 and 60-60.
The ultimate difference?
Points in the paint. Holly Pond had 56. Weaver had just 24.
"Coming into the game, we knew we had a height advantage at several key positions," Morris said. "We needed to and dominated the boards today. We didn't do it the whole time, but it was enough"
The Broncos out-rebounded the Bearcats 46-17, with Smith, Gunter Morris and Jacob Cahoon pouring in basket upon basket inside the paint. With so many easy buckets, Holly Pond finished the game shooting 58 percent.
"Both sides played hard," Weaver coach Daryl Hamby said. "We are a small team, and it definitely showed today. It was the difference, no doubt."
The first three frames saw 12 lead changes, but Smith held steady, scoring nine points in the second and eight in the third to keep up with the Bearcats' speedy attack.
Holly Pond took a 57-49 advantage on a Morris layup late in the fourth quarter.
Weaver's Chris English wasn't about to give up, though, as the junior scored 10 of his 27 points in the final frame to help his team take a 60-58 lead with just two minutes remaining in regulation.
But as he has so many times this season, Colby Adams rose to the occasion for the Broncos, connecting on a mid-range floater to tie the game in the waning seconds.
The Bearcats failed to scored on their time-expiring possession, giving the crowd four more minutes of basketball.
It was all Holly Pond in the extra time, as Adams scored six of his 17 points, including a momentum-shifting three-point play that gave his team a 67-64 advantage with nearly one minute left to play.
Adams said Weaver's on-the-ball pressure made it difficult for him to find open lanes throughout the 36 minutes of play.
"They're the quickest team I've ever played against," he said. "We just tried to feed the post all game. Austin really pulled through for us."
The Bronco D stood strong following Adams' big play, and Cody Jones made two huge free throws to extend their lead to five points and ultimately end any chance of a Weaver comeback.
Morris contributed 10 points and nine boards, while Cahoon and Carter Hays netted nine and six points, respectively. Blake Black made a trey, and Jones' two free throws were his lone points of the contest.
Holly Pond will compete against Pisgah (17-10) on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. for a chance to head to Birmingham next week.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at email@example.com