The defending Class 7A Alabama state champion flashed its obvious excellence in Saturday night’s tournament quarterfinals, easing to a 79-62 victory over the Fayetteville Bulldogs from Arkansas.
Those in the Heart of Dixie know all about the fellas from Birmingham.
The Spartans, 32-3 a year ago when they finished ranked fifth nationally, have won 16 of 17 this season heading into Monday’s 8:30 p.m. semifinals.
“We’ve played in six of the last seven championship games in our class, which is the largest in the state,” said 12th-year Spartans coach Bucky McMillan.
Could that actually be true, six of the last seven state 7A finals?
“Yes — we won five of them,” the youthful McMillan said. “We’ve had a good run and we’re trying to keep it going.”
Fayetteville coach Brad Stamps is a believer.
“First of all, they are a really good basketball team that is used to winning,” Stamps said. "They're what we're trying to get to.
“I give the credit to them. We knew what we were up against coming in and we make no excuses — they outplayed us.”
Mountain Brook relied on intense full-court pressure to gain control of this game, scoring in major spurts by turning defense into easy offense.
The Spartans scored the last 12 points of the first quarter to break free of an 8-8 deadlock, then dumped in the final 16 points of the second period to gain a commanding 47-26 advantage at intermission.
“When we passed the ball, they were always moving,” said Fayetteville’s Arthur Cox. “The extra man was always helping. The next guy was always there.”
That defensive pressure allowed the Spartans to move out to a 20- point lead at virtually any time, allowing McMillan to go deep into his bench.
“When we can shoot it like we did tonight, we can be dangerous, because we can always count on our defense,” said McMillan, whose team hit 7 of 7 first-half 3-point shots. “It also allows me to build depth.”
Eleven players scored for McMillan, led by the 20-point outing of Carter Sobera. Colby Jones, a 6-foot-5 guard who will play for Xavier next year, added 18 points and five assists and continually tried to involve his teammates.
Fayetteville (8-4) was led by the 22-point game of 6-6 junior Tamaury Releford, who sank 10 of 12 shots from the field. Landon Glasper added 15 points for the Bulldogs.
CONCORD FIRST ASSEMBLY 93, WEBB (KNOXVILLE) 61
The Eagles of Concord, North Carolina, blasted their way into the semifinals with a runaway victory over Webb School of Knoxville.
Concord First Assembly scored the game's first 10 points, which was a sign of things to come for the Spartans, who trailed 36-26 at halftime before getting blown out by 20 points over the third period.
Trae Benham poured in 30 points to pace the Eagles, hitting 11 of 15 shots from the floor, including 7 of 10 from beyond the 3-point line. Garrett Hien, a 6-9 senior headed to Furman, scored 19 for Concord, and Ambaka Le Gregam contributed 10.
Webb was led by the 20-point outing of Lukas Walls and the 14-point game of Tariq Daughton.