Selma, Ellwood should be proud

Published 4:40 pm Thursday, February 23, 2017

It’ll feel a little weird next week, not heading to Birmingham for the state semifinals and finals of the Alabama High School Athletic Association basketball tournament.

This is my fourth year covering basketball at the Times-Journal and every year, I’ve made a trip to Birmingham to cover a state championship game. This year that won’t be the case after the Selma girls and Ellwood Christian boys’ basketball teams came up a little short in Montgomery on Tuesday.

The toughest part about covering any sport, but especially basketball, is the finality that comes with the final buzzer. Basketball games between good teams always seem to come down to the final possession and that was the case Tuesday in Selma’s game and Ellwood’s.

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The final seconds for the losing team feels like a sprint for survival — played at a pace nobody can keep up. Both Selma and Ellwood found themselves in that position Thursday and both had several possessions to try to tie the game late, only for the rim to be unkind.

When the clock hits all zeros, the season is over right then and there. There are no more shots to take, no more rebounds to chase down and no more cheering to do. It’s a roller coaster ride of emotions to go from giving every possible effort to just a few seconds later having no more time to play.

It’s the part of the year I hate the most, especially when teams advance far into the playoffs. Interviews afterward are always difficult, especially for the players and that’s understandable, but they should also remind themselves of what they’ve accomplished.

Both Selma and Ellwood Christian were one of the final eight teams playing in their classification and the seniors involved had tremendous careers. When I first started at the Times-Journal, Selma’s Jamya Smith, Areyana Williams and Jacquetta Dailey were just freshmen. I watched them grow up before my eyes.

Over the last four years, I probably saw that trio play 50 games or more and 99.9 percent of the time they were on the winning end. They qualified for Montgomery three times in that stretch — losing once in a home sub-regional game to Paul Bryant — and won over 20 games each year. There are hundreds of basketball players around the state who would love to have that type of career.

Ellwood is a team without many seniors. Only Duantrey Franklin and Markeis McMillian will graduate from the Eagles, although those won’t be easy losses to overcome. McMillian is a guy who gave organized basketball a try for the first time this year, but jumped right in and became a key player. His ability to knock down 3-pointers gave Ellwood another dimension, and Franklin was a key ballhandler who played 29 minutes in Tuesday’s loss.

I want to wish the seniors good luck in the future. Basketball may not be in the future for all of them, but they can each look back proud on what they accomplished in 2017.