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Dallas County loses sting in Southwest Regional

BNI NEWSERVICE

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH ALABAMA – Two weeks ago, the defending 4A state champion Greene County Tigers looked occasionally disoriented as they played on their own court in Eutaw against Demopolis.

Playing Thursday against Dallas County in the University of South Alabama’s cavernous Mitchell Center, the Tigers looked right at home.

Greene County got big games from senior stars Howard Crawford and Curtis Nickson and used a 14-6 run at the end of the first half to break open a close game, coasting to a 69-48 victory in the 4A Southwest Regional semifinals. Greene County will face UMS-Wright in Saturday’s Regional title game for the right to return to the 4A Final Four.

“We just feel at home here,” Greene County head coach Rodney Wesley said after the game.

“Our fans came down and gave us great support, which helps a lot. We have several veterans from last year that give us great leadership, and our starting guards, Charlie Hutton and Michael Powell, they’ve never been (to the Final Four), so they’re hungry. With their hunger and our experience, it’s really come together for us the last two games.”

Back-to-back baskets by Dallas County’s Eric Ross and Andre Nelson brought the Hornets within four at 17-13 with 3:55 to play in the first half, but Crawford scored eight of his game-high 17 points in those next 4:00 as the Tigers outscored DCHS 14-6 down the stretch to take a 31-19 lead into the locker room.

Greene County would sustain that momentum into the third quarter, effectively sealing the game with a 14-3 run over the last 5:18 of the period that turned a 39-27 lead into an insurmountable 23-point advantage heading into the fourth period.

“Their size and quickness just overwhelmed us,” said first-year Dallas County head coach Willie Moore.

“Every shot we had was contested, and when we missed it was one shot and done. We were playing the defending state champions. They’ve been there before and their hunger was greater than ours.”

Crawford hit 8 of his 10 shots to score his 17 points. Along with Nickson, who contributed 13 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocked shots, the two future UAB Blazers dominated the post area on both ends from the opening tip.

GCHS outrebounded the Hornets 46-29 on the day.

“We just wanted the win, and we knew we had to play great defense to get it,” Crawford said.