Reeltown scampered on a run in the fourth quarter and kept the Beulah Bobcats from making runs to set their area championship date with the Dadeville Tigers.
The 50-45 victory wasn’t easy from the beginning though, the Rebels had foul issues early that stymied their 4-0 lead that came off an early steal.
“I kept preaching to the guys all year to be patient,” Reeltown head coach Jonathan Gardner said after the game. “It’s all gonna turn around at the right time. Don’t give up. Tonight was a good example of it. I told them before the game that the kids from Beulah didn’t have anything to lose so don’t take them for granted.
“They came out and gave us a hard game and played real hard,” he continued. “They listened to everything their coach was saying. We just came out flat. I just told them to keep getting it and we’ll just keep adjusting in the game to what they’re doing and it all paid off in the fourth quarter.”
Fouls stopped their defense from putting the pressure on Beulah while the pressure that the Bobcats employed was enough to keep the Rebels flat-footed and cough the ball up. Beulah was a program they faced two times before the game but it was different.
The first-quarter buzzer sounded a bit of relief for the Rebels but so too did it signal a 7-6 deficit.
“I told them, why are we fouling them when they get to the goal?” Gardner recalled in the huddle. “If you don’t foul them, they’ll just throw the ball up. Just throw your hands up and don’t reach cause we put them at the line doing stupid fouls.”
Beulah jumped ahead early in the second quarter as Reeltown’s offense began to succumb to pressure.
However, the Rebels regained their composure and forced two ties before snagging the 18-17 lead into halftime.
To that point of the game, Marcus Haynes led the program with six points but it was Gabe Bryant’s three that jumpstarted the Rebels’ offense.
“We’re not a high-scoring team. Marcus is going to lead us on the rebounds and with his rebounding he’s getting a lot of putback points,” Gardner said. “With Gabe, he’s our all-rounder. He’s got the green light so he was flat at first. I told him to keep shooting it and when he made it – that’s when he got that good confidence.”
The third quarter was even in the books. Both teams put up double-digit points but the Rebels benefitted from Beulah’s mistakes. Three fouls in the first minute of the second half spelled trouble for one side while Reeltown was able to find their footing.
Over the first four minutes of the third quarter, Beulah’s defense came under scrutiny as the foul count continued to climb. Eight team fouls placed the Rebels at the line numerous times. 13 total shots were taken at the free-throw line for the Rebels and they cashed in on seven of them.
A big play found Haynes cashing in on a free-throw but the subsequent miss came to the waiting hands of Wilson Hill. Haynes was under the basket long enough to make the shot and subsequent and-1 to give the Rebels a 24-23 lead.
Beulah’s No. 14 made sure to cash in on a three-pointer to put the Bobcat back ahead, but only briefly. Reeltown capped off the third quarter with Sedarico Brooks and Lee making field goals for the lead.
The fourth quarter was huge for the Rebels. Leading 33-30, an 11-2 run put the Rebels in the driver’s seat and forced the Bobcats to foul and try and capitalize on the misses. 13 total free throws were attempted in the fourth quarter.
Reeltown made nine of them.
Beulah committed 18 total team fouls in the second half with eight coming in the final quarter of play. TJ Washington got hot from deep cashing in on two three-pointers late in the fourth but it did little than knock on the door of the Rebels’ lead.
Reeltown managed to keep their space from Beulah in the final minute. Reeltown took a deep three from Tyvon Waver as Beulah closed the game down to 44-41. The Rebels managed to extend their lead once more in the final 12 seconds before sealing the win with free throws.
The win marked the first time in Gardner’s head coaching career with Reeltown that they made it to the area finals.
“This is my first area win,” Gardner said. “The boys told me that was my first one as a head coach and I said it sure is. And I hope not my last. They promised me that.”