In a boys basketball contest that featured five lead changes and a pair of ties, it really felt like what a Class 2A Area 8 semifinal should be all about.
Reeltown and Thorsby went toe to toe for the majority of Tuesday night’s game in a contest of scoring runs and momentum changes that felt like it could go either way. However, when Thorsby started to pull away midway through the fourth quarter and Reeltown’s shots just weren’t falling, the tide started to turn. Thorsby held off a late Reeltown rally, picking up a 45-40 victory to advance to the area championship and end the Rebels’ season in defeat.
“They just pulled away when they hit some big shots,” Reeltown coach Jonathan Gardner said. “We had some missed free throws and we just couldn’t finish at the end.”
In the very early going, it looked like Thorsby was going to walk away an easy victory. It scored the game’s first seven points and Reeltown didn’t get on the board until more than three minutes into the contest. But when it did, Tre Tre Hughley started making it rain 3-pointers.
Reeltown’s first bucket was a triple from Hughley then moments later, he flipped a pass to Rhasheed Wilson who easily laid it in on the fast break. That cut Thorsby’s lead to just two points, but it was Thorsby’s turn to answer.
It scored four in a row before Reeltown responded with a run of its own. The Rebels ended the first quarter on a nine-point, including another Hughley 3-pointer and two consecutive fast-break layups from Marcus Haynes.
“(Hughley) told me before the game he wanted everything in his hands (Tuesday night) and he showed me that,” Gardner said. “He didn’t quit and he gave it his all. I just told him to leave it all on the court (Tuesday night), no matter what the outcome is. And they all did that. I’m very, very proud of them.”
From there, neither team led by more than four points until midway through the fourth quarter. Thorsby got its advantage to as many as eight points and although the Rebels tried to make a late comeback, it was too little, too late.
Reeltown was playing without Eric Shaw, who was held out with a nagging injury. Although Gardner said that didn’t change the game plan for the Rebels, it was clear his absence was felt, especially offensively, in such a close game.
“We knew what they were going to do and we had a strategy to stop what they were going to do and it did work,” Gardner said. “We just needed to make more shots at the end.”
The loss ended Reeltown’s season with a 5-13 record, and although every coach is disappointed to finish the season with a tough loss, Gardner was pleased with how his team developed over the season.
Because of Reeltown’s long run in the football playoffs, the basketball team always felt a little behind the eight ball. The Rebels didn’t have their first full practice until the day before the season began. But they improved with each game and it felt like if they had’ve had that extra month to begin with, things could’ve ended differently.
“We still had a pretty good season,” Gardner said. “It didn’t turn out like we wanted it to but we got much, much better toward the end. We played hard and we didn’t quit so that’s what it’s all about.”