For the third straight year the R.A. Hubbard Chiefs will be making an appearance in the Lawrence County tournament finals. And for the third straight year the Chiefs are looking to bring the championship back to Courtland, Alabama.
However, to pull off the hat trick, the Chiefs will once again have to knock off the Lawrence County Red Devils. This time on their home floor.
That's right, for the third straight year, R.A. Hubbard and Lawrence County will meet in the finals of the county tournament.
"I guess you could say we're the Clemson and Alabama of Lawrence County basketball," laughed Sonny Conwill, Hubbard's head coach.
Yes the two squads will pair off in the biggest annual game in the county once again.
But unlike the Red Devils, the Chiefs weren't able to run away with their semifinal game. In fact, they had to scratch and claw just to get there.
The Hatton Hornets gave Hubbard all they could handle Friday night and them some.
"That team right there is a very good team. It could easily be them in the finals instead of us," Conwill said of the Hornets. "They played a heck of game and it really could have went either way."
The Chiefs came out of the game on fire, racing to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. But by the end of the quarter they saw their lead dwindle to 11-9.
Hubbard scored just 8 points after the 10-0 run to start the game, and trailed Hatton 23-18 at the break.
"About halfway through the second quarter they had took control," Conwill said. "We don't have a lot of depth so I knew we wouldn't be able to press the whole game. But, I knew if we were going to get back in the ball game, we would have to press the second half."
The adjustments worked, and after falling behind 29-26, the Chiefs hit a 13-2 run to take the lead after the third 39-31.
Suddenly the momentum had shifted, and the Chiefs had control while the Hornets were struggling to make easy shots.
"They came out in their press that they're known for. I know they don't do it as much this year, but Conwill put it in at a good time," said Hatton head coach Tanner Tesney. "We ran our press break, then for some reason we stopped. Then we starting missing layups. The press doesn't really work if you're making layups, but we didn't and that's what really killed us."
Hubbard pushed their lead to 15 with 4 minutes left, but Hatton didn't go away.
If it hadn't been for key free throws down the stretch, the Hornets may have come back and won.
"They were hitting big shot after big shot and it came down to free throws," Conwill said. "If we don't make those free throws, with the shots they were hitting, we don't win. So I was proud to see them step up."
Tyrus Johnson led the Chiefs with 19 points in the game. Ridge Harrison finished with 17 for Hatton.
Hubbard meets Lawrence County in the county finals Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
The Chiefs are two time defending champions, but Conwill says it will be a clean slate going into this game.
"Maybe later on we'll look back on it and we'll remember how we made it so many years in a row," he said. "But right now what's in the past is in the past and for us to win against a really good team we'll have to play our best."