By JD McCarthy
for the Opelika Observer
Smith Station basketball is continuing their stellar play and is ready for the Area Playoffs next week. The Panthers improved to 16-2 overall and 2-1 in Area 4-7A after going 2-1 against Auburn, Dothan and Russell County in a busy week.
“This group only won 12 games last year but finished the end of the season strong,” head coach Steven Davis said of his team. “Now they are 16-2 and playing very hard during a pandemic that took our summer preparation and games during the Christmas holidays. So, I’m proud of my guys perseverance.”
The Boys opened the week with a matchup against Auburn, who had given them their only loss of the season at that point. Playing at home proved to be helpful as the Panthers won 72-66 to even the series at one win apiece.
The Panthers were led by Donovan Pearman, who scored a team-high 16 points, and Zay Madden, who finished with nine rebounds and 12 points.
They were not able to celebrate for long, however, as they fell to Dothan 77-75 on Friday. This time they had an even shorter break, facing off with Russell County on Saturday, where they were able to get back to their winning ways with a 61-59 overtime win that saw two last-minute shots from Tre’Quan Turner and Dre Weathers save the day.
“The guys played extremely well, but we just couldn’t get over the hump,” Davis said off the loss. “We needed the learning experience from that loss. We bounced back and won Saturday in a short turnaround.”
With the Tigers trailing in regulation, it came down to Turner to keep the game alive. He did just that, driving right before making a “very acrobatic layup” that tied the game with just a few seconds remaining and forced overtime.
This time it was Weathers who was the hero. With the game tied at 59 and the Panthers with the ball, they missed a game-winning shot. However, Weathers was able to snag the rebound and scored the winning basket with just four seconds on the clock.
The layup ensured the Panthers ended the week with some momentum going forward into the final week of the season and the awaiting playoffs after the close loss to Dothan.
The Panthers were neck-and-neck with Dothan for most of the game, but the Wolves made two late free throws to seal the win.
With just two games remaining, an area game against Central on Tuesday Feb. 2 and the season finale at Beauregard on Thursday Feb. 4, the Panthers are looking to end the season with some wins and have a chance tie Auburn atop the area ranking.
If they beat Central on Tuesday, then Smiths Station and Auburn will both finish 3-1 in area play. If this happens the tie will be decided by a coin flip according to Davis.
The AHSAA area tournament will take place on Feb. 9, 11 and 13.