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Smith comes through just in time for Bulldogs

Sports Editor - Daily Mountain Eagle
Sunday, Feb 22, 2009

HANCEVILLE — Jo-Jo Walls couldn’t get an open look.

Kegan Tarver was covered and Michael Forest missed his shot.

Enter B.K. Smith

Smith’s putback at the buzzer turned out to be the difference in a grudge match against Fayette County in the Northwest Regional Tournament final at Wallace State-Hanceville’s Tom Drake Coliseum as the Bulldogs won their first regional title since 2000 with a 42-40 victory over the Tigers.

Smith may have been the fourth option on the play, but he was the only option that mattered as the final second ticked off the clock. Smith went up for a rebound and released the ball just as the buzzer sounded. Mayhem ensued on the court as Dora players rallied around the senior under the goal.

“I just caught that ball and threw it up there and it went down. It feels great,” Smith said of his game-winner. “I didn’t think I was going to touch the ball on that (last possession). I saw it coming and was able to make the shot.”

Smith, the only Dora senior starter, scored six points in the game.

“Whoever was open was supposed to shoot it,” Dora point guard Jo-Jo Walls said. “It was supposed to be a play to get everybody open. When I looked at the clock we just had eight seconds. We tried to run a play, but it was all messed up. We just kept playing and things worked out.”

Fayette County tied the game at 40-40 with one minute left on a Craig Franks free throw. Dora held the ball for the final possession.

Fayette County put the clamps on both Walls and Tarver down the stretch. That left Forest open for the final shot. As a second defender closed in, Forest’s 3-point went long and sailed over the front of the rim. Smith was there for the rebound. He put the ball high off the glass.

The ball hit the back of the rim and the front of the rim before slipping through the net, lifting Dora to its third trip to the Final Four.

The play didn’t go exactly according to plan.

“When I saw it leave Mike Forest’s hands I looked at my assistants and said ‘We’re going to another (overtime),’” Dora coach Heath Burns said. “Then here comes B.K. out of nowhere. The play wasn’t drawn up like that, but we had guys step up like B.K. Smith. He made a tremendous shot at the end.

“We were supposed to set a screen at the top and penetrate the gap. We were supposed to set up gaps everywhere, but we didn’t get much movement. Forest got the ball and we didn’t get a screen so he shot it. Luckily, B.K. Smith is a great athlete and he somehow finds a way to be in the right spot at the right time a lot of times. He was right there and made a big shot. Our guys just find a way to win and today we found a way to win in the end.”

Burns wasn’t the only one who was thinking about a second overtime.

“I actually thought we were going to another overtime,” junior Kegan Tarver said.

“Somehow B.K. was up under the goal and put it back up. Now we’re going to Birmingham.”

Forest said a second defender forced him to alter his shot.

“I pump faked and when another guy came in, it threw my shot off. I’m glad it did because B.K. came in and made his shot,” Forest said. “Now we get to go to Birmingham. It feels great. I love it. This is what I really wanted. I want to get a ring.”

Dora will face Ramsay on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

Ramsay (15-17) upset Midfield 53-49 on Saturday.

Dora is Final Four bound for first time since 2000

Sports Writer
Sunday, Feb 22, 2009
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HANCEVILLE — Dora High coach Heath Burns thought for sure the Bulldogs were headed to a second overtime.

Michael Forest wished right away he hadn’t rushed his shot as much over two Fayette County defenders.

Fortunately for Dora, senior B.K. Smith was right where he needed to be. Smith was waiting under the goal to corral Forest’s air ball and Smith’s putback as time expired lifted the Bulldogs to a riveting 42-40 overtime victory over Fayette County and propelled Dora to the Class 4A Northwest Regional championship at Wallace State-Hanceville on Saturday afternoon.

It marks Dora’s first trip to the Final Four in Birmingham since 2000 and also marks the most wins ever (29) in a single season for the basketball program.

“B.K. Smith made a tremendous play at the end of the game. He’s the only senior out of our starters. He was at the right place at the right time,” said Dora coach Heath Burns. “It’s just been a great year. It’s been a dream season.”

The inspired 2008-09 campaign for the Bulldogs continues after a picture perfect finish claimed Saturday’s regional title.

“Our guys — they found a way. And today we found a way. We just kept plugging along, and we played a good defensive game,” Burns said.

Dora confronted a 28-24 deficit at the end of the third quarter before both teams went on emotional roller-coaster rides in the fourth quarter and overtime.

After a couple of brief first-half leads, Dora finally reclaimed command of the scoreboard with a 29-28 lead with 6:22 remaining in the game on a Jo-Jo Walls 3-pointer. Forest followed with a bucket at the 4:46 mark to help the Bulldogs match their biggest lead of the game at 31-28.

The see-saw finish then started heating up. There were five ties spanning the final four minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime.

In the fourth, Dora nursed a 35-32 advantage with three minutes remaining after Jerian McLemore scored four consecutive points for the Bulldogs.

Fayette County’s Franks and Colton Poe-Billups added a free throw apiece over the following minute and a half to cut Dora’s lead to 35-33.

With 51.3 seconds remaining and Dora clinging to its two-point lead, Walls missed the front end of a one-and-one to give Fayette County a chance to win or tie the contest in regulation.

Fayette County’s Ashton Billups rose to the challenge. He banked in a jumper right outside the block to notch it up at 35-all with 31.4 seconds left.

Dora’s Walls was too strong on his 3-point attempt as regulation expired to send the game to overtime.

The extra period featured three lead changes and three ties before Smith’s heroics sent the Dora players and crowd into a frenzy.

Walls hit 1-of-2 free throws with 1:26 remaining to hand Dora a 41-40 lead.

Fayette County’s Franks then had an opportunity to swing the favor back to Fayette County, but he connected on just 1-of-2 free throws to notch things back up at 40-all with exactly one minute remaining.

Dora stalled the ball for the next 45 seconds before Walls got the offense in motion.

Forest was forced to shoot with two defenders in his face as time was winding down. His 3-point attempt was wide, but Smith’s placement on the court couldn’t have been any better.

His putback secured the win for Dora right before the buzzer sounded.

Smith scored four of his six points in overtime and added four rebounds for the Bulldogs, which trailed 11-4 after the first quarter.

4A Tournament MVP Kegan Tarver finished with 13 points and five rebounds and Walls added seven points. All-Tournament selection Forest contributed six points and six rebounds and McLemore had six clutch points off the bench.

Ja’Michael Swain proved stellar defensively for Dora with five rebounds and two blocked shots. He  was also the main cog in limiting Fayette County’s Franks to only eight points on 1-of-9 shooting.

Franks had put Fayette County (20-9) in the regional final with a 30-point, 10-rebound effort versus Brooks on Thursday, yet was contained all afternoon by the Bulldogs.

“Franks is so big and wide. He’s a man,” said Burns. “We decided to kind of let our guards kind of free lance their guards on the perimeter to leave our bigger guys in there to front and back him (Franks).”

Fayette County, which had defeated Dora in the area championship game on Feb. 9, was aware nothing was going to come easy for Franks.

“We tried to tell them on Thursday after our game and on Friday that Dora wasn’t going to play Chuck one-on-one near the goal. They were going to play some help,” said Fayette County coach Cedric Dixon. “My men have nothing to feel ashamed of. They have nothing to hold their heads down about. A lot of people didn’t expect us to be here. A lot of people thought the last time we beat Dora it was a fluke. I think we came out and showed people it wasn’t a fluke. It’s a tough loss.

“I would just like to give credit to Dora. They fought. They made some plays in the end and the ball just bounced their way in the end. That’s just part of basketball.”
Colton Poe-Billups paced Fayette County in the loss with 14 points, while Ashton Billups had 12.

Dora will continue its season on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. against Ramsay in the state semifinal at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center.

A Final Four appearance for Dora was something Burns wanted the Bulldogs to strive for when he accepted the job during the summer of 2007.

He just didn’t expect it to be so soon.

“When I got here, I knew the potential was there. I honestly didn’t think it would happen this quick. I thought it was probably going to be a three or four-year process. These guys bought into what we are trying to teach,” Burns said. “We’ve just got great kids, and the thing is they are still young.

“That says a lot about all of the things we have accomplished.”

 

 
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