By Charles Prince
The North Jefferson News
The dynasty that is Tabernacle athletics continued to do what the Torches do best last Saturday at the Alabama Christian Education Athletic Association state championships—win.
Tabernacle brought home the state championship trophies for all three sports contested by the ACEAA at the Oxford Civic Center over the weekend—boys and girls basketball and cheerleading.
On the basketball floor, the Torches won the school’s first state boy’s title since 1992. The Lady Torches won their second ACEAA girl’s title in the past three seasons. They also won the 2006 state crown.
ACEAA girls title game:
Special K is not only a good-tasting cereal, but it’s also a good defensive alignment.
The Lady Torches executed head coach Phillip Coleman’s Special K defense to perfection as they whipped Northside in the title game for the second time in three seasons.
“Our girls played outstanding defense and they played it like a well-oiled machine,” Coleman said. “They played our Special K defense just as well as it could have been played.”
The Special K, a version of a 1-3-1 defense zone defense in which the one player on the front plays man-to-man defense, while the other four defenders play zone, confounded Northside from the start as the Lady Torches raced to a 20-10 lead after one quarter and never lost the lead.
Tabernacle senior center Meghan Hallice was a dominating tower of power in the middle with 33 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
Junior guard Candace Coleman scored 22 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, handed out five assists and came up with four steals.
Hallice and Coleman were both named to the All-State team, with Hallice being named the tournament’s MVP.
“Meghan played like it was her last high school game,” Coleman said. “She came out with the spirit and leadership you expect from a team co-captain. She came here to win a state title and she played that way in the semi-finals and finals. Meghan dominated every player she played against at state on both offense and defense.”
Heather Zassoda added six points and four rebounds, Kari White had two points and 10 rebounds, Savannah Harper had two points and two blocked shots and Lauren Galloway had one point.
Tabernacle finished the season with a 21-5 mark.
ACEAA girls title game:
Flint Hill 63
The Flames were the quicker and more athletic of the two teams, but it didn’t matter, the Torches played their best game of the season in the finals the state tournament. After falling behind 2-0 in the final, they went up 4-2 and never trailed again.
“Flint Hill is a very explosive team,” Tabernacle head coach David Corbett said. “They are quicker than we are, but we wore them down. By the fourth quarter, we were turning the corner on them during our fast breaks and they were a step behind. We were in better shape and it wore on them.”
The Flames began to wear down in the second half, as the Torches built a 16-point lead by the end of the third quarter.
Senior wing Daniel Whaley had a game-high 22 points to lead the Torches, followed by Landon Ingle with 17, T.J. Hallice with 15 (on 5-of-10 shooting), freshman John White with 12 (on 6-of-10 shooting) and senior James Winfield scored six points on 3-of-4 shooting.
Whaley, Ingle and Hallice were named to the All-State team, with Whaley being named tournament MVP.
The Torches allowed 14 first half points to Flint Hill’s 6-foot-7 center, but held him to only six points after halftime.
“T.J.’s (Hallice) interior defense was a big key to holding their big man down,” Corbett said. “We moved T.J. to the middle because of foul trouble and he did a great job shutting down the middle. On offense, we had gone right at the their center the whole game, but we couldn’t get him in foul trouble, but T.J. played him so well in the second half that it didn’t matter.”
The victory was the final game in a Torches uniform for Whaley, Winfield and reserve David Sims. Sims played only one season of varsity basketball, but Whaley and Winfield had been members of back-to-back Final Four teams in 2006 and 2007 that failed to reach the state title game.
“This win is so special,” Corbett said. “The last couple of years we made it to the final four, but couldn’t get over the hump. This year everyone was expecting Northside, Chilton or Flint Hill to take the title. We were really not the team people expected to win the title. We saved our best basketball for last.
“We had good character guys on our final four teams the past two years, but this team was different, because they had a special unity and togetherness. They played their hearts out every time they stepped on the court. They had a unique sense of urgency to get it done. This was a special group to coach.”
For Corbett, the state title was in his first after five seasons as Torches coach. He had taken Tabernacle to the Elite Eight in 2005, before the back-to-back Final Fours in 2006-07.
By Charles Prince