It took 12 minutes for Dadeville to make its first basket inside the paint against Providence Christian in the Class 3A Southeast Regional semifinal Saturday. That did not stop the Tigers’ offense from getting things done as their first 18 points came from beyond the arc.
Dadeville (19-7) used its outside shooting to build a lead in the first half and it never looked back on its way to a 41-38 win over the Eagles. The Tigers made eight 3-pointers in the game to help secure a spot in Wednesday’s regional final at Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery.
“We have a big guy inside so if they help out on him, that’s why we have those guys out there,” Dadeville coach Jesse Foster said. “I knew they were going to keep letting them fly. We just have to shoot them with confidence and we’ll be fine.”
Dadeville forward PJ Eason took a lot of the attention from Providence Christian’s defense as the Eagles continued to collapse on the paint. Eason scored only three points on two shot attempts but he had an impact on both ends of the court from tip-off.
Eason grabbed nine rebounds and two assists to go with a steal and a block but his teammates saw more time on the 3-point line because of his presence in the post. Four different Dadeville players made a 3-pointer in the first half.
“It feels good,” Foster said. “We were making those things in the first half so we were going to continue to shoot those. We shot pretty good in that first half.”
Phil Dowdell provided the biggest spark in the first half, coming off the bench to knock down three consecutive 3-pointers to put Dadeville in front for the first time. He added one more in the final frame which gave the Tigers just enough juice to finish off the Eagles.
“I felt it,” Dowdell said. “I just wanted to play my game but it means a lot. I just wanted to score and keep my teammates up. I have to do whatever it takes to get the win.”
Tripp McKinley was the only other Tiger to reach double figures as he knocked down a pair of 3-pointers on his way to 10 points. Jamarion Wilkerson led the team with six assists.
Providence Christian (17-13) did not go away quietly as Dadeville never managed to pull away. The Tigers were just 3-of-12 from the free-throw line and the Eagles took advantage, keeping the game in reach until their last-second 3-pointer was off the mark.
“We were taking bad shots in the second half,” Foster said. “And if you aren’t making your free throws at the end of the game, they’re going to stay in the game. We weren’t hitting those.”
Dadeville’s defense stepped up when the offense started to stall in the second half. The Tigers limited Providence Christian to 31 percent shooting including just 6-of-21 on 3-pointers.
“We talk about defense all of the time,” Foster said. “That’s what it’s going to take in this tournament. You’re not always going to be hitting your 3s and you have to play half-court defense.”
Dadeville advances to the regional final which will be played Wednesday with a scheduled tip off time of 2:15 p.m. at Garrett Coliseum. The Tigers are slated to play Pike County.
“We are just going to play,” Foster said. “We thank the Lord for the opportunity and we go play.”