Earn Back-to-Back Titles for First Time Since 2014-15
BY WIL CREWS
When Tuscaloosa Academy visited Glenwood for its annual “Border Wars” basketball tournament in December, head coach Dusty Purdue, senior point guard Jasmyn Burts and the rest of the Lady Gators knew they might see the Knights again.
The two teams did not face off in the Border Wars, but the Gators were convinced of Tuscaloosa Academy’s potential in part because of the performance from the Knights’ junior guard, Alex Brownlee.
“They came to our border wars and I got to see [Brownlee] in person, and Jasmyn did too,” Purdue said. “Jasmyn said ‘hey coach, she’s pretty good, she can play. I’m really hoping that we get to play them in the state tournament. I want to see how good she is and I want her to see how good I am.’ So, that’s what ended up happening yesterday and neither one disappointed.”
Monday night at the Cramton Bowl Multiplex in Montgomery, Glenwood defeated Tuscaloosa Academy, 58-56, to claim back-to-back AISA Class AAA State Championships.
“The goal at the start of the season is to try to win it all and somehow we miraculously pulled it out,” Purdue said. “There was no quit in us yesterday. There was no quit in us all year. I was very impressed with the way we fought, the way we didn’t crumble when they took the lead, and just made it happen.”
Burts and Brownlee battled from the first whistle, making an impact in different ways but leading their teams throughout the heavily contested game.
“[Brownlee] shot the ball well from the outside and had some good takes to the goal and got fouled and made her free throws,” Purdue said as he commended the Tuscaloosa Academy star. “Jasmyn didn’t hit any outside shots but did what Jasmyn does — take you off the dribble and create — and she made some really good moves and shots. It was a very good matchup for those two just for their team’s sakes. They were both leading the whole game.”
Despite Glenwood trailing by as many as 10, and behind as many as eight in the fourth quarter, Burts scored a bulk of her 26 total points in the second half to help the Gators escape with the narrow win.
Burts repeatedly torched Tuscaloosa Academy by driving to her right, getting to the free throw line and sinking her attempts. Her efforts were a big part of why Glenwood flipped the script and held a seven-point lead with less than two minutes remaining in the contest.
With just seven seconds to go, however, Glenwood was inbounding the ball up two. Brownlee — who led the Knights with 25 points — picked off the inbounds pass, got fouled and headed to free throw line with a chance to tie the game if she knocked down the pair of shots.
“She had not missed a free throw all day,” Purdue said.
After sinking the first free throw, the second shot from Brownlee surprisingly rimmed out. Glenwood grabbed the rebound and got the ball to Burts before getting fouled with just one second remaining.
“You’re watching the clock all time thinking, can that thing move fast enough?” Purdue said.
The senior leader stepped up to the line and made the first attempt, but missed the second. As Brownlee collected the rebound for Tuscaloosa Academy, she launched a full-court heave, but the shot fell short. The Gators were champions once again, and back-to-back champions for the first time since 2014-15.
“I’m looking at my assistant coach and he’s looking at me and I’m like ‘did we just pull this off?’” Purdue said. “I was told by the powers that be, the AISA guys, the people that run the tournament and all that, that this was by far the best state championship game they had seen. It was a fun game to be a part of for sure.”
After the game Purdue was happiest to send his two seniors, Burts and shooting guard Katelyn Blackshear, out with a win.
“For Jasmyn to come and love the game of basketball the way she does — and to win is just a plus — but for her to be successful, that was the main thing,” he said. “She came in as a leader, she leaves as a leader and she’s the glue that holds it all together. And then for Katelyn, she was a sixth grade manager for the girls’ basketball team and now she is leaving with two championship rings and got to participate and be a big part of this team this year as a sixth man is just wonderful. I can’t say enough about those two.”
Purdue and the Gators will likely never forget Valentine’s Day 2022; it was the night all their hard work paid off. Now they walk the halls as champions once again.