By ARTHUR L. MACK
BIRMINGHAM — St. Luke’s charged back from a 12-point deficit only to see Aliceville’s Tyjarian Williams make a free throw with 3.4 seconds left to lift the No. 9 Yellow Jackets to a 44-43 win over the Wildcats Friday for the Class 2A state championship at Legacy Arena.
Williams got his shot at glory when he grabbed an offensive rebound of a missed jumper by teammate Tyquan Simon with under 10 seconds remaining and was fouled by Mike Myles. Williams — who was 2 of 8 from the line — missed the first free throw but the second one found the mark.
St. Luke’s tried to throw an inbounds pass and get off a desperation shot but state tournament MVP Jatavius Colvin stole the ball as time ran out.
“We had our chances but I’m proud of our guys,” Wildcats coach Garreth Trawick said.
Aliceville (25-1), which had a decided size advantage, won its first boys state title by dominating the backboards. The Yellow Jackets outrebounded St. Luke’s 41-28, including 20-2 on the offensive boards, leading to a decisive 10-4 edge in second-chance points in an otherwise evenly played game.
“We knew (rebounding) was part of the issue and I knew it would cost us eventually and it did,” Trawick said. “But to fight through that, making shots and making plays and getting to the free throw line, was offsetting the rebounding.”
It was a painful end to a somewhat surprising postseason run for the Wildcats (16-12), who started the season 2-8 and wound up losing their fourth state championship game after also making the 1A finals in 2016, 2018 and 2019. St. Luke’s had won seven straight games since star guard Brandon Cooks returned from a broken collarbone that caused him to miss most of the regular season.
Cooks led all scorers with 20 points, including going 7 of 8 from the free-throw line. The Wildcats were 10 of 12 from the line and Myles added a game-high 10 rebounds as he and Cooks kept St. Luke’s in the game after it fell behind as much as 22-10 in the first half.
Colvin overcame late foul trouble and led Aliceville with 18 points.
Trailing by 12, the Wildcats fought back to cut the lead to 25-21 at halftime, although J.T. Busby picked up his third foul with about three minutes left in the half.
Busby hit two free throws with 23 seconds left to tie it 43-43 after he came up with a steal and was fouled by Williams, who atoned with his heroics on the other end 20 seconds later.
Other than the Yellow Jackets’ huge advantage on the boards, the statistics were virtually even.
St. Luke’s made 15 of 38 shots to Aliceville’s 15 of 54. The Wildcats were 10 of 12 from the free-throw line, the Yellow Jackets 10 of 21. Aliceville made four 3-pointers and St. Luke’s hit three.
There were six ties and seven lead changes, although Aliceville led for 19:42 of the 32 minutes.