BIRMINGHAM — Calm and casually, Greg Maclin tosses the basketball aside as the horn sounds and jogs over to a swarm of celebrating teammates.
A few hugs and handshakes were shared, and smiling faces were everywhere on the floor.
For Tanner High’s seniors, it was just a typical season’s end.
Play a game. Win. Celebrate.
And collect another blue state championship trophy.
Tanner saved its best game of the postseason for the biggest stage, dominating LaFayette 61-45 Friday afternoon the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex as the third-ranked Rattlers walked to a Class 2A state title.
The win marked Tanner’s third basketball state title, and the program’s second since 2011.
Tanner has collected Alabama High School Athletic Association boys championships in three different sports since 2011, winning titles in basketball (2011 and 2013), track and field (2012) and football (2012).
“I told the guys before the game that we haven’t played our best game in about two or three weeks,” Tanner coach Chris Whitt said. “These guys responded. We had several guys come out and really play well.”
On the first day of the AHSAA’s Final 48 where state champions were crowned, Tanner’s celebration was the most modest.
With hundreds of fans clad in green on white on their feet chanting with Tanner’s cheerleaders, the players enjoyed a low-key celebration in front of their bench.
And that was the peak.
When the AHSAA officials presented Tanner (30-4) with the state championship trophy, the team, led by Maclin and Blake Whitt, casually walked to midcourt, accepted the hardware and briefly hoisted it above their heads before leaving court for a team photo.
“I think it’s because we’ve been in this situation before,” Tanner senior Fred Rich said of the modest celebration. “Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of success, whether its football, basketball or track. We have high expectations. We expect to win these games.
“Hey, I’m not saying winning gets old. It never gets old. Winning a championship is a great feeling. But we’re going to act like we’ve been here before.”
“It’s great to be a Tanner Rattler,” he said with a wide smile. “Right now, we’ve got a winning tradition going. Expectations are high, but that’s the kind of team you want to play for.”
There’s a reason why expectations were high. Tanner’s roster was loaded with talented players. In the state title game, the Rattlers appeared to be better than LaFayette (21-12) at every position.
It didn’t take long for that talent to show, either.
Justin Smith and Jonathon Fletcher drained a pair of 3-pointers early, helping Tanner race out to a 17-10 lead. The Rattlers made four 3s in the first half and carried a 12-point cushion into halftime.
Smith and Rich finished with 14 points each to lead Tanner, while Fletcher tossed in 11. Jace Haggermaker added eight.
“We knew coming in they were going to make us shoot it from outside,” said Smith, who was selected the tournament MVP. “You’ve just got to knock them down, and that’s what we did.”
LaFayette made a couple of runs in the second half, but could never get closer than seven points.
Raquazious Boyd paced LaFayette with 22 points and eight rebounds.
“Basketball is a game of momentum,” Whitt said. “You can’t have a run and quit, like we did at times this season. That’s something we always remind the guys about, and they responded well.
“It helps that we shot the ball so well. (The BJCC) can do things to your normal shots. Players come down here and struggle every year. But we shot it well. That was huge.”
All championship games at the BJCC in Birmingham.
Boys: St. Jude 57, Brantley 56
Girls: Brantley 53, Keith 42
Boys: Tanner 61, LaFayette 45
Girls: Woodland 64, Prattville Christian 53
Boys: Wenonah 75, Center Point 60
Girls: Faith Academy 51, Wenonah 50
Girls: Lauderdale County (32-5) vs. Holly Pond (29-5), 9 a.m.
Boys: Madison Academy (23-12) vs. Southside-Selma (24-9), 11 a.m.
Girls: Clarke County (28-4) vs. Oneonta (31-4), 1 p.m.
Boys: Madison County (28-4) vs. J.O. Johnson (22-8), 3 p.m.
Girls: Blount (29-4) vs. Hoover (27-4), 5 p.m.
Boys: Mountain Brook (29-6) vs. Sparkman (29-7), 7 p.m.
Four basketball players from two area schools were named to state all-tournament teams in their respective classifications. The local selections are:
Class 2A boys
Tanner: Justin Smith, MVP; Fred Rich and Greg Maclin
Class 5A girls
Brewer: Riley Northway
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