February 11, 2010 9:24:00 AM
Russ Wallace respects any team that beats R.C. Hatch.
R.C. Hatch has won 10 state championships, including consecutive championships from 2006-08.
That''s why Wallace, the Pickens County High School boys basketball coach, respects Keith High School.
Pickens County (22-2) will see just how good Keith is at 7 p.m. Friday in the opening round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 2A Central Sub-Regional Tournament.
"They beat R.C. Hatch two out of three times this year and R.C. Hatch is loaded," Wallace said. "We''re playing an excellent, excellent basketball team. If we can beat them it ought to give us a shot in the arm and give us confidence that we can beat anybody in the state."
In other AHSAA boys sub-regional games Friday, Lamar County will play host to Red Bay and Sulligent will travel to Mars Hill Bible in the Class 2A Northwest Sub-Regional Tournament.
The Alabama Independent Schools Association Class AA State Tournament will begin Friday at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala., with the Pickens Academy boys playing Edgewood Academy at 1:30 p.m.
Keith''s only loss to R.C. Hatch was a 66-53 setback in the Class 2A, Area 6 championship game. The loss enabled Pickens County to earn the opportunity to play host to the opening round of the sub-regional.
"It''s huge," Wallace said of playing at home. "That''s something we''re used to doing around here. I''ve been here 13 years and 12 out of the 13 years we''ve won the area (championship).
"You want to win your area so you can host a sub-region game because there''s nothing like playing at home. Home-court advantage in the playoffs is big because most of the teams are playing where they''ve never played before and it''s a new environment for them."
Pickens County won the Class 2A, Area 7 Tournament this past Friday by beating Isabella 74-31.
Keith won its only state championship in basketball in Class 2A in 1998.
n Red Bay at Lamar County: The Bulldogs, who won their first area championship since 1997, also will play at home in the first round of the Class 2A, Northwest Sub-Regional Tournament.
Lamar County (15-6) won the Class 2A, Area 11 championship when it beat Sulligent 54-46 on the Blue Devils'' home floor on Monday.
"That was a good one," Lamar County coach Vance Herron said. "It was back-and-forth all the way. Sulligent had beaten us three times this year and we had just beaten them once.
"To win the area championship with the way we had played the last three weeks was exciting because I think it''s going to get us back on track. We hadn''t played very well (with losses to Gordo and Winfield), and I''m hoping (Monday''s) game will get us back on the right path."
Herron is glad the Bulldogs will get to play the opening-round game in their gym.
"It''s exciting to get to play at home because we probably play tougher at home," Herron said. "We''ve only lost three games at home the last two years."
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