January 7, 2010 9:21:00 AM
The Pickens County High School boys basketball team will attempt to keep a good thing going Friday and Saturday at the Pickens County Tournament at Gordo High.
The Tornadoes will take the court in pursuit of their fourth-consecutive championship and ninth in coach Russ Wallace''s 13-year tenure.
Pickens County will play Aliceville at 7 p.m. Friday. The winner will play Gordo in the championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday.
"We''ve won it two or three years in a row, and we''d like to keep that string going," Wallace said. "It won''t be easy by any stretch of the imagination. Aliceville has a good, solid ballteam. If we get by them we''ll have to play Gordo for a third time, and trying to beat a team that many times in a row, it gets tougher every time."
Pickens County is also matched against Aliceville in the first round of the girls bracket. The winner will play Gordo in the championship game. The games tip off at 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Gordo received a first-round bye for being the host school.
The Pickens County boys beat Aliceville for the title each of the past two years and defeated Gordo three years ago.
"It''s just bragging rights for the county, which is a pretty big deal for the kids around here," Wallace said. "It''s always going to be competitive when you throw Aliceville and Gordo and us in there. Any time you''ve got the county playing the county people are going to come out and support it. You''re going to have packed stands. It''s just a fun environment to play in. It means a lot to the kids because it''s bragging rights for a year."
Pickens County is 10-1 as it attempts to keep its throne as the best in the county.
"We''re a very young basketball team," Wallace said. "I wasn''t expecting the start that we''ve had. We''re 9-1 and the only loss we''ve had was to the No. 1 team in Class 6A (Hillcrest of Tuscaloosa, Ala.) by five points at their place. If somebody would have told me that before the season I would have told them they were crazy as can be. But these young kids are playing some good basketball."
The Tornadoes will play an Aliceville program that once ruled the county. The Yellow Jackets haven''t won the tournament since 2003, but have claimed the championship 17 times in Joe Hurst''s 30-year tenure as the coach.
Hurst would like nothing more than for the Yellow Jackets (5-8) to reclaim superiority in the county.
"I''ve tried to instill in (the players) we need to get back on top in the county and win it again," Hurst said. "One of our goals is to win every tournament we enter."
Hurst likes the matchup with Pickens County.
"It''s always going to be a good game because it''s a county rivalry," Hurst said. "We''re so competitive with one another. We have players similar to one another. They get after each other no matter how good or how bad the teams are. The county tournament bring out the best in them individually. It''s always a good game."
Pickens County won the first matchup Dec. 11 at Aliceville.
"We''ve got to shoot better (than the first meeting)," Hurst said. "We were 11 out of 62 (for 18 percent). We had a bad shooting night."
Hurst said he had to suspend two players for disciplinary reasons the first time Aliceville played Pickens County, but the players will play in the county tournament.
Pickens County edged Bibb County 65-64 on Tuesday on a basket by LaJuan Doss with 10 seconds remaining, while Aliceville lost to Fayette County 64-62.
n Aliceville vs. Pickens County (G): The Lady Yellow Jackets also will attempt to win their fifth straight county tournament.
"We''ve got a nice little streak going, and hopefully we can keep it going," Aliceville coach Sabastan Shamrey said.
The Lady Yellow Jackets lost to Pickens County in the tournament Shamrey''s first year as coach, but have won the championship every year since.
If Aliceville beats Pickens County and Gordo to repeat, the wins will be the first of the season for the Lady Yellow Jackets.
Aliceville (0-11) hasn''t resembled the same team that has won the tournament the past four years.
"We''re a young team," Shamrey said. "I have a lot of ninth-and 10th-graders. We''re just now starting to come into our own. We''re starting to work together as a team. We got a late start on building a team this year, but I think we''re starting to jell with the practices we had over the holidays. I''m looking for a good push the second half of the season."
Pickens County (5-4) won at Aliceville earlier in the season.
"We were able to get the ball past the press," Pickens County coach Ike Gipson said of the first meeting. "That helped us out a whole lot. We were able to break the press, and that was the main factor in the ballgame."
Pickens County beat Bibb County 51-29 and Aliceville lost to Fayette County 47-43 on Tuesday.
1. Schaefer, MSU are 'heartbroken' no longer LOCAL COLUMNS
2. Starkville High's Perry shows his versatility HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. Noxubee County will miss Patterson LOCAL COLUMNS