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Red Bay boys make history

The Red Bay Tigers made history Tuesday night, beating the Vincent Yellow Jackets 44-31 and advancing to the Class 2A Final Four for the first time in school history.

The Tigers will play Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. against the winner of Aliceville and Calhoun.

“I don’t think it has sunk in just yet,” said a speechless John Torisky after the game. “I’m not sure what to say. The last time we were here I was pretty excited because we got our first win at regionals, and today – to come here today and do this – I don’t think it has hit me that we are going to Birmingham.

“I am proud of the guys. We had a game plan, and we stuck to it all week.”

Torisky said one key for his boys in making history was that they “just really locked them down on defense.”

“That was probably the best defensive game we’ve had all year,” Torisky said. “Defense wins, especially in the playoffs. It was an unbelievable performance to take away all the weapons they had. I just can’t believe we play that well defensively.”

Offensively, Torisky added, “it was the most patient we were all year. It was just flowing.  You can’t look at the points.

“We couldn’t play fast against them. We knew we would have to make every possession count and at the end hang on to the ball and make free throws.”

After a rough shooting start, the Tigers did find the flow Torisky was talking about. After starting off 4-for-16 in the first quarter, Red Bay was 12-for-21 the rest of the game.

Red Bay was 16-for-37 from the field. In contrast, Vincent was 9-for-37 from the field.  The Tigers dominated points in the paint 26-12 and points off turnovers 15-8.

After a two-minute scoring drought, Red Bay broke the ice on a power move inside by Braden Ray to give the Tigers the early 2-0 lead. Jalen Vinson followed with a steal and layup to put Red Bay on top 4-0.

Vincent tied the game on four straight points. A reverse layup by Vinson put the Tigers back on top 6-4.

The Yellow Jackets scored five unanswered points to take a 9-6 lead with 1:35 to go in the first quarter and led 11-9 at the end of the first.

Red Bay went on a 10-2 run to start the second quarter, with Ray scoring six of those points for the Tigers. The run pushed the Red Bay lead to 19-13.

Vincent, however, cut the Tigers lead to 19-17 by halftime.

Red Bay’s hustle on defense and patience on offense led to another run in the third quarter. Shewbart scored first for the Tigers in the second half on a pick-and-roll assist from point guard Clay Allison to give Red Bay a 21-17 lead.  Vincent scored soon after but wouldn’t score again for the rest of the quarter, as Red Bay went on an 11-2 run.

It wasn’t anything fancy – just fundamentally-sound basketball. A layup by Vinson, a nifty move to the basket by Ray, a backdoor cut by Ray with a nice assist from Shewbart, and to cap it all off, Allison blew by a Vincent defender for a last-second layup.

Vincent opened the fourth quarter with two straight made baskets, but Red Bay immediately answered with layups by Tanner Hamilton and Vinson. After that it was time for Vincent to foul, and the Tigers weren’t about to miss their free throws making 11-of-13 on the night.

Ray ended the night as the Northwest Regional Most Valuable Player. Teammates Lane Shewbart and Allison were also named to the All-Region Team.

Ray scored 17 hard-earned points on the night. Vinson followed with eight points, Shewbart with seven points and nine big rebounds, Allison six points, Tanner Hamilton four points and Arden Hamilton with two points.