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Familiar Feeling for Anniston Girls

Anniston’s Tykeria Smith tries to get a shot up against T.R. Miller during their Class 4A state semifinal Tuesday in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena. (Photo by Joe Medley)
Anniston’s Tykeria Smith tries to get a shot up against T.R. Miller during their Class 4A state semifinal Tuesday in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Birmingham, AL – Cold shooting, tough second half doom Anniston’s girls to another ‘sad’ day in Birmingham as T.R. Miller advances to 4A title game.

By Joe Medley

In nine Final Four trips under veteran head coach Eddie Bullock, Anniston’s girls have had nights when a lid seemed affixed to the rim.

The 2009 final against Midfield comes to mind.

Tuesday was another lid night for the Bulldogs. They made nine of 42 shots and managed one field goal during the key stretch as T.R. Miller rallied to win their Class 4A state semifinal, 33-28.

T.R. Miller (25-3) advanced to face Good Hope in Friday’s 4 p.m. championship game.

Suffering only its second loss to 4A competition this season, Anniston finished 29-5 and with a feeling Bullock knows well.

“These girls right here, I told them to hold their heads up,” said Bullock, who just completed his 19th season as Anniston’s head coach. “I’m proud of them.

“I’ve been down here, and this is my ninth time coming, and I said, ‘I’ve left here eight times sad.’”

Anniston won the Class 4A state title in 2020, but Tuesday marked the Bulldogs’ first Final Four appearance since 2021. A season-ending injury contributed to the Bulldogs’ suffering elimination in the 2023 area tournament, marking the only time during Bullock’s tenure that they didn’t advance from area.

Hardy was back healthy and leading a senior-laden team this season. Anniston won area, subregional and Northeast Regional titles.

“This year was different because, our ninth-grade year, we came here, but we wasn’t the reason why we came here,” Hardy said. “We were part of the team but (not starters).

“This year, our seniors were the reason we got here, so it felt better to be here.”

For the first half and first two-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter, it looked like Anniston might stay for another game. In a low-scoring, defensive slugfest, they led 19-8 when Tykeria Smith hit one of two free throws at 5:35 of the third quarter.

At that point, an 11-point lead felt like a 20-point lead. Neither team could get going offensively … until T.R. Miller did.

The Tigers scored the next 13 points, taking a 20-19 lead on Bethany Simmons’ 3-pointer at 6:33 of the fourth and 21-19 on a Jadin Curry free throw at 6:10.

“We fell apart a little bit defensively,” Bullock said. “We kind of missed some assignments, and they got some second shots there.

“One of the things we wanted to do was control the boards. … There were a few key points where we let them get offensive putbacks. We were just out of position.”

Anniston’s dry spell broke on Layla Tyus’ layup to tie the game at 21-21 at 6:00, but T.R. Miller scored the next seven points to lead 28-21 at the three-minute mark.

Anniston rallied on A’Kayla Perry’s 3-pointer to make it 28-24 at 2:11, and Hardy’s 3-pointer and free throw brought Anniston within 31-28 at 0:23.

T.R. Miller’s Serenity Mitchell hit five of six free throws in the final 50 seconds and was the lone player in double figures with 11 points. Hardy led Anniston with eight.

T.R. Miller’s victory means that retiring head coach Ronald Jackson will coach his final game in the state final. He has more than 1,000 career wins and five state titles over 41 years.

Jackson got to the final by beating Bullock, another coach who’s taken his team to Birmingham many times.

“I was praying I didn’t get him, but it didn’t work out that way,” Jackson said. “He’s such a great coach, and I was worried the whole time. There were two seconds on the clock, and I was still worried.

“He’s just a great coach, excellent on preparation. It feels fantastic that we came out with a win.”

Jackson’s players have an idea how they want to send him out.

“We’re ecstatic,” guard Meg Fountain said. “We’re excited to do this not only for our team, but for ‘Coach Jack.’”

 

Anniston’s girls take on T.R. Miller in a Class 4A state basketball semifinal in Birmingham, making their ninth Final Four under their head coach, Eddie Bullock.

Anniston’s girls during pregame introductions before their Class 4A state semifinal against T.R. Miller on Tuesday in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena. (Photo by Joe Medley)
Anniston’s girls warm up for their Class 4A state semifinal against T.R. Miller on Tuesday in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena. (Photo by Joe Medley)
Anniston’s A’Kayla Perry goes to the basket during the Bulldogs’ Class 4A state semifinal against T.R. Miller on Tuesday in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena.
Anniston’s Jada Fomby goes to the basket during the Bulldogs’ Class 4A state semifinal against T.R. Miller on Tuesday in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena.
Anniston’s Serena Hardy passes to Layla Tyus during the Bulldogs’ Class 4A state semifinal against T.R. Miller on Tuesday in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena.
Anniston’s Jada Fomby finishes off a steal and layup during the Bulldogs’ Class 4A state semifinal against T.R. Miller on Tuesday in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena.
Anniston’s Jada Fomby shoots a floater during the Bulldogs’ Class 4A state semifinal against T.R. Miller on Tuesday in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena.
Anniston’s Serena Hardy (23) and Jada Fomby press during the Bulldogs’ Class 4A state semifinal against T.R. Miller on Tuesday in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena.
Anniston’s cheerleaders do their halftime routine during the Bulldogs’ Class 4A state semifinal against T.R. Miller on Tuesday in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena.
Anniston’s cheerleaders and band go to work during the Bulldogs’ Class 4A state semifinal against T.R. Miller on Tuesday in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena.

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