RED MAP: Belgreen comes up just short in title game
The Belgreen Bulldogs’ quest for a state title came just short Friday afternoon, as they lost to the Autaugaville Eagles 38-34 in the Class 1A state championship game.
Belgreen (26-3) put up a valiant effort, but in the end, the undefeated (30-0) Eagles’ size and athleticism won the day.
Autaugaville dominated the offensive boards, pulling down 22 offensive rebounds to Belgreen’s six – which resulted in a 17-4 difference in second-chance points for the Eagles.
Defensively, Autaugaville shut out the Bulldogs in the final eight minutes of the game.
Autaugaville is the first boys’ team to go undefeated in AHSAA basketball since Barbour County finished 34-0 in 2011-12.
Senior Scout Bragwell closed out a back-and-forth first half by hitting his second buzzer-beater three-pointer in as many games, giving Belgreen a 22-18 lead in a half that had 10 lead changes.
Bragwell started the game with a corner three off an assist by junior Will Bonner. That and the buzzer beater would prove to be Bragwell’s only two field goals of the game, but the miracle shot to close the half gave the Bulldogs a ton of momentum heading into the locker room.
With most of the defensive attention directed at Will Bonner and Bragwell the first half, junior Collin Bonner scored 12 points. The lefty went six-for-seven from the field for the Bulldogs in the first half.
A three-pointer by Austin James with 52 seconds to go in the third quarter gave the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the game at 34-27.
That would be the last time Belgreen would score.
Autaugaville scored with 38 seconds to go in the third quarter and went on a 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter to take the lead for the first time since midway through the second quarter.
Once they had the lead, the Eagles went to four-corner offense, moving the ball around in an attempt to draw Belgreen out of zone defense.
Belgreen certainly had opportunities down the stretch but could not make it happen. The Bulldogs missed the front end of two one-and-ones in the final minutes of the game.
Bragwell had two clean looks at shots beyond the arch in the final seconds of the game but couldn’t make the magic happen again.
Pacing Belgreen was Collin Bonner with 16 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and four rebounds. Bragwell had six points and six rebounds. Will Bonner and Austin James had six points each.
Collin Bonner and Bragwell earned All-Tournament Team honors for Class 1A.
Dozens of members of the Belgreen community met the team bus at the school late in the night to welcome their team home and celebrate their accomplishments.
HEADING TO STATE FINALS
The Belgreen Bulldogs dominated the Notasulga Blue Devils from the opening tipoff in the Class 1A semifinals, winning 66-44 to advance to the Class 1A state championship in Birmingham.
Belgreen dished out 17 assists in a total team effort. The Bulldogs dominated the defensive boards 29-20 and points in the paint 38-22.
Bragwell continued his hot post–season three–pointers, scoring 12 points in the first half. Bragwell was five-for-seven from the three–point line. He hit his fifth three just three minutes into the third quarter, crushing any comeback attempt by the Blue Devils.
Fellow senior Isac Willingham and junior Collin Bonner led Belgreen on the defense. Willingham pulled down seven rebounds, while Bonner grabbed six boards.
Willingham also dished out six assists to his teammates.
Will Bonner was nine-for-12 shooting, scoring 19 points. He also had six rebounds and five assists. He spent the entire second quarter on the bench after picking up two quick fouls to close out the first quarter.
Belgreen opened up the game on a 5-0 lead on a layup by Willingham and a three-pointer by James. After a bucket by Notasulga, a layup by Will Bonner and two-straight three-pointers by Bragwell gave the Bulldogs a 13-2 lead four minutes into the game.
Notasulga cut Belgreen’s lead to 17-11 at the end of the first quarter.
The loss of Will Bonner in the second quarter didn’t deter the determined Bulldogs. Belgreen opened up the quarter with a two from Bragwell, a three by Adrian Reeves and two free throws by Willingham to give the Bulldogs a 24-13 lead.
Belgreen was shooting a whopping 82 percent from the field 10 minutes into the game. On the defensive end, Collin Bonner was getting the job done with three blocked shots.
Collin Bonner picked up the load offensively, as well. He scored seven points late in the second quarter to help push Belgreen’s lead to 34-21 with 1:36 to go in the first half.
As time was expiring in the first half, Collin Bonner was looking to drive the lane for a last shot. Notasulga had the land defended well, but Bonner flipped the ball back behind him to Bragwell, who drained a 24–foot three-pointer as time expired to give the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the game, 37-22.
Belgreen was firmly in control from the opening tip but ran away with the game in the third quarter.
Belgreen went on a 10-2 run to open the second half – two straight three-pointers by Bragwell and two straight layups by Will Bonner – giving the Bulldogs a 47-24 lead with 3:26 to go in the third quarter.
Belgreen closed out the third quarter just like the second quarter – with a tip-in buzzer beater, this one by Will Donahoe off a missed three by Will Bonner to give Belgreen a 57-26 lead.
Will Bonner led Belgreen with 19 points, followed by Bragwell with 18. Collin Bonner had 11 points. Willingham added six points, Donahoe four points, James three points, Reeves three points and Jordan Wright two points.