Against Class 6A Hueytown’s half-court defensive pressure and transition speed, Plainview fought back and forced overtime in its second game of the seventh-annual First State Bank Shootout.
Corey Stephenson’s go-ahead dunk in addition to the Golden Gophers’ closing free throws was enough to hand the Bears an 88-84 loss at DeKalb County Schools Coliseum in Rainsville on Wednesday night.
“Unfortunately, man usually learns more from defeat than from victory,” Bears head coach Robi Coker said. “We had an opportunity with the ball to close out the game. They did a good job of pressuring us there and we couldn’t really operate.”
A goaltending call against Hueytown with 16 seconds remaining in regulation allowed Plainview (13-5) to tie the game at 78.
With 3:16 left in overtime, Jonah Williams’ layup off a steal gave the Bears an 82-80 advantage, before Stephenson was fouled while finishing a dunk with 47.8 seconds to play. Stephenson made the ensuing foul shot and put the Gophers (11-4) in front for good at 84-82. Free throws by Melvin Stringer and Stephenson made it a four-point game with 5.3 seconds left.
Cole Millican received the following inbounds pass from Williams and ran across midcourt before firing a deep 3-point attempt that bounced off the right side of the rim as the final buzzer sounded.
“We have to learn to finish games,” Coker said. “To get what we want out of this season, we have to learn how to win close games. We just have to figure out how to operate in those situations.”
For the Bears, Smith had 28 points with nine rebounds and Millican added 20 points and seven assists. Williams made five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points and Dylan Haymon chipped in 12 points and five rebounds.
Stephenson tallied a game-high 34 points, Edarius Cowart scored 18 points and Stringer added 16 points for Hueytown.
The Gophers held a 22-21 edge at the end of the first quarter after rallying from a 17-9 deficit. Plainview made six 3-point baskets in the opening minutes, including three from Williams.
After establishing its defensive presence, Hueytown created offense from defensive stops and outscored Plainview 21-9 to close the half with a 43-30 lead.
“Hueytown is very athletic and one of the favorites to be in Birmingham in 6A. We hit them in the mouth early with a flurry of 3s to get the game going and they settled into a groove where we couldn’t really guard them,” Coker said.
After defense forced the Bears from attacking the basket for most of the first half, they had greater success in the second half, outscoring Hueytown 25-13.
Williams stole the ball and assisted Smith with a layup to pull Plainview within 52-48 before Smith scored a layup with 2:16 left in the third and added two free throws with 1:16 remaining to cut it to 56-52. A 3-pointer by Haymon made it a one-point game by quarter’s end.
“We may have had our best second half of the season,” Coker said. “To be able to get back in that game and have a chance to win speaks to our guys’ character, a lot about our effort, but Hueytown presented a lot of problems. There aren’t a lot of teams on our schedule, and maybe in the state of Alabama, that are as good as they are. Coach [Heath] Burns has won everywhere he’s been and he has another quality group that could make a run in Birmingham.
“(Hueytown) pushed us out, made us operate at 30 feet. They did a good job of getting back on defense and getting set. We had some open looks, but they were deep looks, they’re still hard shots, even when they were open. Because of (Hueytown’s) athleticism and length, our adjustment was to back up.”
There were three lead changes in the fourth. A three-point play from Millican with 6:26 left in regulation gave the Bears a 62-60 edge. Plainview led by as many as four points during the fourth period.
Stephenson sank a 3 at the 3:14 mark to put Hueytown in front at 69-68. Two free throws by Stringer during a one-and-one situation extended the lead to 73-68 with 1:33 left.
Stephenson was called for goaltending against Smith’s game-tying attempt with 16 seconds to play, allowing the Bears to force overtime.
“I thought our guys’ effort was great,” Coker said. “I thought our pressure really created some opportunities for us to get back in the game. I like our attitude, but there are several facets to the game and one of those facets is playing close games and figuring out ways to win those hard games. I’m hoping we learn from it moving forward.”
Plainview closed out the FSB Shootout with a game against Fairfield on Thursday night. The Times-Journal went to press before the game was completed.
“We knew it was going to be brutal when we put this thing together; that’s how we wanted it,” Coker said of scheduling this year’s tournament. “We’re playing three teams that have a chance to play in the state tournament, three teams that play different styles, three teams that have great athleticism. We want to be tested. We just hope that when that seven-game tournament starts in February that we’re ready for it.”
On Tuesday night, Millican finished with 37 points and six rebounds, as Plainview topped the Midfield Patriots 77-66 in its opening game of the FSB Shootout.
Smith scored 17 points with eight rebounds and Williams added 16 points and six rebounds while shooting four 3-point baskets.
Millican shot 10 of 17 from the field, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range, and made 13 of 14 attempts from the foul line.
The Bears broke a 34-34 halftime tie with a hot third-quarter, outscoring Midfield 28-17 to gain the decisive advantage.
Both teams produced 15 points in the fourth quarter.
Plainview outrebounded the Patriots 29-16 but finished with two additional turnovers (19-17).