Patriots drop Sunshine to win area title
The Patriots overcame a halftime deficit before staving off a late run to top Sunshine 66-60 and win the AHSAA Class 1A, Area 5 Tournament Monday night.
After taking the early advantage, Linden watched as four of its players — including senior center Justin Delaine — picked up two fouls before halftime. With Delaine on the bench for the bulk of the second quarter, Sunshine was able to attack the middle. The visiting Tigers did so to the tune of a 14-8 second quarter run that put them up 23-19 at half.
The lead was short lived as Linden used its press defense to create problems in the second half and Delaine returned to the floor to limit Sunshine’s second chance opportunities.
“The big kid, Delaine, he was a man around the basket,” Sunshine head coach Walter Jones said. “He got us in foul trouble.”
On the offensive end, Linden offered a steady diet of Delaine. The 6-5 senior ran to the left block, posted up, called for the ball and went to work. The formula created easy high percentage baskets for the Patriots and relegated a handful of Tigers to the sidelines with foul trouble.
“He was a big impact,” Linden head coach Roosevelt Moore said. “We were feeding him the ball down low and trying to establish an inside presence.”
As effective as Delaine was in the game, it was senior guard Larente Taylor who continually bailed the Patriots out of jams. When the Tigers went on a run and pulled the game close, it was Taylor who seemed to have a knack for making the big play on the offensive end.
At one point in the third quarter, Taylor caught the ball on a breakaway and dunked it authoritatively before sprinting to the other end and blocking a Tiger shot off the glass.
“He’s just decided to step up here toward the end of the season,” Moore said of Taylor. “I was wondering where our leadership was going to come from. He stepped up and took that role.”
Taylor scored a game high 24 points, topping his first round total of 22 while taking tournament MVP honors in the process.
The Tigers put together a run in the fourth quarter, but timely free throw shooting by the Patriots preserved the win.
“We didn’t take advantage of the chances we had early,” Jones said before turning his attention to his team’s effort. “That’s our motto: ‘Leave it on the floor and live with the outcome.’”
Taylor added five rebounds and six assists to his 24 points. Gerald Bruno added 16 points while Delaine finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Sunshine got 18 points from Jimmy Parker and 19 out of John May.
The win means that Linden will host Area 6 runner-up Holy Spirit in the sub-regional round Friday night.
“I didn’t know quite were we were going to stand in the area because (Linden) graduated eight or nine seniors (last year),” Moore said.
“We have four seniors with almost no experience. We have eight players who played no varsity basketball last year, period.”
With the loss, Sunshine will hit the road to play Area 6 champion Autaugaville Friday.
“Whether it’s on the road or at home, you still have to focus and get ready,” Jones said.