Dadeville shakes off an early  deficit to defeat Randolph County

Cliff Williams / The Outlook

Dadeville’s Jamarion Wilkerson takes a shot against Randolph County during Friday’s Class 3A Area 7 championship.

For the second game in a row, Dadeville’s boys basketball team found itself in a double-digit deficit. And for the second game in a row, the Tigers battled their way out of it en route to a victory.

Friday night’s game was the essential time to do so, as the 55-44 victory over Randolph County secured the Class 3A Area 7 championship for the Tigers. And the best part about it was avenging a loss in the area final a year ago when Dadeville coach Jesse Foster thought his team let one slip away.

“It feels great to take care of your home court,” Foster said with a grin. “We had the chance to do it last year, and Tallassee came in here and beat us. They cut our nets down, so this year we’re cutting the nets down.”

Randolph County literally couldn’t miss to start the game. It began with back-to-back 3-pointers to take a 6-0 lead before Dadeville could even blink, and it made its first five shots of the night to take a 14-4 lead midway through the opening frame.

But Foster quickly took a timeout and tried to settle his players down.

“We knew it was going to be tough,” Dadeville’s Jay Patrick said. “We had to get our minds right because we knew they were going to come out hot. I had to guard (Caleb White), and that took a lot of energy for me. But we just fed off each other and that’s how we play.”

Out of the timeout, Dadeville went on an 8-0 run then finally tied it up 16-16 on a pair of PJ Eason free throws.

“(Randolph County) coach (Clifton) Drummonds does a great job with his guys, and we knew it was going to be tough all the way through the game,” Foster said. “We just had to keep our composure. They hit some shots in the first quarter, and we had to tell our guys to keep the composure. It’s a long ballgame, and that’s what we did.”

It was the Tiger defense that really clamped down, as Randolph County scored as many points in the final 12 minutes of the first half as it did in the opening four minutes of the game, and Dadeville took a 31-28 lead into halftime.

Sharpshooter White was held to just seven points all game.

“We had to stop (White),” Foster said. “He’s a great shooter. We had Jay Patrick and Cam Tai on him. They did a heckuva job on him and that was the difference in the game.”

Dadeville started to put on its half-court press in the final minutes of the third quarter and stretched out its lead to 41-34 heading into the fourth, which was its largest advantage to that point. The pressure defense continued to work to the Tigers’ advantage in the opening minutes of the fourth, as Eason grabbed a steal and fed Tai, who laid it in to give Dadeville a 46-36 edge with only 4:03 remaining.

“We knew they were going to get a little tired,” Foster said. “They usually only play with about seven, so we tried to pick our chances to get in our press and try to wear them down.”

In addition to winning the area championship, the Tigers also earned the right to host a sub-regional game, which will be Tuesday against either Pike Road or Bullock County. The Tigers are hoping that home-court advantage will continue to work to their advantage.

“We came up short last year, but we’re back,” Patrick said. “We came to take what was ours. It’s great too because we feed off the crowd. If the crowd is load, we’re really pushing.”

Tuesday’s start time is still to be determined.