Tallassee didn’t start out the basketball season in easy fashion as it hosted rival Elmore County last Tuesday to begin. The Tigers ended up walking away with a split.
In the girls’ opener, the Panthers used a 16-3 fourth-quarter run to defeat their rivals 41-27. In the second half of the boys tilt, the Tigers out-athleted the Panthers from the tip to the final buzzer en route to a 56-31 victory.
Following their respective wins, Elmore County girls coach Amy Rachel and Tallassee boys coach Keiven Mixson were both pleased with the success but didn’t hesitate to acknowledge the amount of work still needed.
“I loved the effort and I thought top to bottom, everybody that went in gave me everything they had,” Rachel said. “Of course, we are going to have turnovers and things were are going to have to fix but I love the way we played defense and the way we were able to push the ball.”
Mixson’s reaction was no different.
“I was extremely proud of how hard we played tonight; the intensity was there,” he said. “And hey, you’re going to make some mistakes in that first game and that’s to be expected. Anybody watching can see that we got after it.”
In girls game, the Panthers pushed ahead 22-9 in the first period, but Tallassee opened the third frame with an 8-0 run led by Sinclair Cole and Jy Mckinnon. Cole finished with 13 points to lead all scorers.
Despite the run, the Panthers stayed in front and weather the storm ending the half ahead, 25-24.
“Basketball is a game of streaks,” Rachel said. “You are either cold or your hot, but you’ve got to play through them.”
After the Panthers were ice cold in the third, they were Alabama Summer hot in the fourth, outscoring Tallasse, 16-3, en route to the victory.
Seanna O’Daniel led the Panthers attack with 12 points. C.K. Bolton added 10 and Madison Britt rounded out the night with eight, six of which came in the fourth underneath the hoop.
“In the third quarter, (Tallassee) did something different on defense that we were ready for and that forced us to start pushing things and instead of letting it come to us naturally,” Rachel said. “In the fourth quarter, we made some adjustments and started playing smarter.”
Then the Tiger boys took the floor with a starting lineup that’s tall and athletic. Tallassee immediately used its height, wingspan and athleticism to push ahead, 9-0.
Led by Payton Stephenson’s nine points, ECHS scored twice to cut the lead to 9-5 only to see Tallassee get hot on an 8-0 run to end the period.
“Elmore County played good and hit some shots, but I wanted to get more guys in the game,” Mixson said. “I told the guys I’m not proud of this game, but we played hard and still won the game. The key to our season is going to be depth. At the end of the season, I don’t expect to be playing the same seven or eight guys but to be playing 11 or 12.”
Tallassee didn’t relinquish their lead in the second half en route to the victory.
Payton Stephenson and Dylan Weaver led the Panthers with a combined 16 points.
On the other side of the court, Tyrek Turner posted 23 points. Truck Griffin followed with 14 and Demonate Washington, coming in off the bench, posted 11 with two fourth-quarter dunks that brought the hometown crowd to life.
“(Turner’s) a force. Then you add Truck, 6-foot-3, that gives us an advantage,” Mixson said. “Then you add Demonate to the mix. And that’s the thing; these kids have kind of all played together and he’s running around trying to figure things out.”