Tallassee basketball coach Kevin Mixson was put through a roller coaster of emotions in the final 20 seconds of Tuesday’s sub-regional game. After seeing his Tigers lead Charles Henderson by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter, Mixson watched as the Trojans rebounded a missed free throw by Tallassee and took it the length of the court to tie the game with nine seconds to go.
Fortunately for Mixson and the Tigers, nine seconds was plenty of time to find a winning basket. Tallassee’s Jalyn Daniels, the game’s leading scorer, pushed the pace and got to the basket only to see his shot bounce off the rim but it was Tavarious Griffin who got to the ball first, putting in the layup to secure a 55-53 victory for Tallassee.
“When I saw him drive to the basket, I saw no one boxing out,” Griffin said. “I had a free lane. Coach always says getting offensive rebounds and that’s what won the game.”
Griffin’s shot gave him 10 points on the night, the third Tallassee player to reach double figures. It also sent the Tigers into the Class 5A Southwest Regional after falling short in the sub-regional the last two seasons.
“It’s surreal right now,” Mixson said. “We keep talking about how much God has blessed this team and I don’t want to make too much of it but it’s true. I don’t even worry anymore.”
Tallassee (27-4) saw plenty of struggles offensively for the second consecutive game as the Trojans focused on slowing down Jamicah Humphery and Tyrek Turner. Charles Henderson ran a box-and-1 for most of the night to control the paint against Turner while denying Humphery the ball.
Those two players scored seven points each but the Tigers found answers elsewhere as it was the first time this season three players reached double figures without one of them being Turner or Humphery. Daniels led the way with 17 points, scoring nine points in the final quarter.
“Jalyn has not played like a sophomore,” Mixson said. “You may guess he’s a junior or a senior by how he plays and that’s why he worked his way into the starting lineup. He’s a baller.”
The 3-point line was open for Tallassee most of the night but the Tigers struggled from beyond the arc in the first half. Daniels helped turn those fortunes around in the final two quarters as he made three 3-pointers including one to tie the game midway through the third quarter after Tallassee trailed by as many as eight points.
“We have been taught to drive in and attack the basket,” Daniels said. “We didn’t want to shoot too much. I was feeling good though. I was really confident in my shot.”
Tae Collins also got in on the action in the second half, knocking down a pair of deep balls on his way to finishing with 12 points.
“I told them at halftime someone has to turn it loose,” Mixson said. “You have to have confidence in your shot. I think when the coach has confidence in you, it gives you more confidence. We spread the floor and shots started falling.”
Tallassee is one of 16 teams remaining in Class 5A and the Tigers will put their season on the line again Saturday. Tallassee will travel to Alabama State to play Sylacauga in the first round of the regional. Tip off time is yet to be announced.
“I have to get game tape and I have to start watching film,” Mixson said. “We’ll get to work tomorrow. I know they have a great team but hey, we’re four games away. We can play with anybody on the right night.”