February 26, 2010 8:52:00 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The Pickens County High School boys basketball team can make school history tonight when it takes the court at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center.
Pickens County, of Reform, Ala., will attempt to win its first state championship when it plays Houston County at 8 p.m. in the Class 2A championship game of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Final 48 State Tournament.
"It''s something we''ve been dreaming about at our school for a long time," Pickens County coach Russ Wallace said. "I''ve been here for 13 years and this is the third trip to the Final Four, and we''ve been to the Elite Eight and lost to R.C. Hatch so many times I can''t even remember. To finally get a chance to play for it means a lot to our school and to our community. It says a lot about a young basketball team."
Pickens County last played for a state championship in 1971, when it lost to Abbeville 69-50.
The Tornadoes will attempt to atone for their past two appearances in the Final Four, when they lost in the semifinals to Calera in 2005 and Lanett in 2006.
"It feels good to get to the championship game," Pickens County sophomore guard Warren Betts said. "We knew every time we had come to the Final Four in the past we had come up short. We knew what we had to do to come up big (against Sand Rock on Tuesday)."
Pickens County (26-2), which is ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, advanced to the championship game by beating Sand Rock 59-54.
Houston County (26-9) stamped its ticket to the championship game Tuesday by beating Mars Hill Bible 72-66.
The Tornadoes realize they have hard work ahead of them before they can celebrate.
"It means nothing yet," Pickens County junior guard Deion Curry said. "Until we can win state and bring the first championship home to Reform, then it will mean something."
Curry said the Tornadoes are well aware of the team''s fate the last two times it made it to Birmingham.
"Coach (Wallace) has been stressing that all year," Curry said. "He said we remind him so much of the ''04, the ''05 and the ''06 teams. The ''05 and the ''06 teams were the teams that made it here. We don''t want to be another team that just makes it this far. We want to be the team that brings it home."
Curry scored a team-high 17 points and added six rebounds, three assists, and four steals to help Pickens County beat Sand Rock.
Betts came off the bench to score 11 points and was the only other player to score in double figures for the Tornadoes. He played significant minutes because starting point guard Markeithton Hall was in foul trouble.
Pickens County shot 37 percent from the field, 14 percent from beyond the 3-point arc and 47 percent from the free-throw line, but overcame the poor shooting by making Sand Rock play full-court and forcing 23 turnovers.
Houston County had four players score in double figures against Mars Hill Bible. Jazerek Peterson led the way with 18 points, while Desmond Warren (16), Jeremy Robinson (15 points, 10 rebounds), and Andrew Bolden (12) paced a balanced attack. All three of Bolden''s field goals were 3-pointers.
"They''re a solid basketball team," Wallace said of the Lions. "They''ve got athletics. They can handle the ball. They can shoot from the perimeter. They''ve got a real big kid inside, Desmond Warren. He''s 6-1 and like 185 pounds. He signed with UAB in football. He was their quarterback. He''s a heck of an athlete."
Wallace believes the Tornadoes match up well with the Lions and he anticipates and exciting game.