This week is a big one for three teams in the Decatur Daily's coverage area.
Decatur Heritage's boys, Hatton's girls and Hatton's boys have all advanced to the Final Four of the AHSAA basketball state tournament.
Decatur Heritage will play at 4:30 p.m. today against Autaugaville. Hatton's girls and boys will play Lanett at 9 and 11:30 a.m., respectively. Both teams will take on Lanett. All three games will take place at Bill Harris Arena at the Birmingham Crossplex.
Should they advance to the state finals, Decatur Heritage would play at 4:30 Friday while Hatton's girls and boys would play at 9 and 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Decatur Heritage boys
Decatur Heritage is the highest ranked of the three, coming in at No. 1 in Class 1A. The Eagles must face No. 2 and undefeated Autaugaville.
Decatur Heritage (20-7) thrives on dominating in rebounds. In the Northeast Regional championship game, the Eagles outrebounded Jacksonville Christian 49-32, including 23 offensive rebounds.
They held Jacksonville Christian to 24% shooting in the 58-33 win.
Rebounding against Autaugaville (29-0) will be a challenge. These Eagles controlled the boards to a 59-26 advantage in a 63-45 win over Keith in the Southwest Regional championship. The Autaugaville middle is dominated by 6-foot-8 Dewaun Stubbs, who had 18 points and 14 rebounds vs. Keith.
The rest of Autaugaville’s starting lineup goes 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 and 6-1. Decatur Heritage’s starters go 6-2, 6-1, 6-0, 5-10 and 5-9.
To their credit, the Eagles have experience playing teams with bigger players. Early in the year they took on 7A Albertville in a tight 41-38 loss. The Aggies have three players 6-foot-3 or taller, including 6-foot-7 Trinity Bell, a Tennessee football commit.
If Decatur Heritage can advance to the finals, the Eagles could face a familiar foe in the finals. Belgreen represents the Northwest Regional in the other semifinal game vs. Notasulga.
Decatur Heritage beat Belgreen, 68-65, in one of last year’s Northwest Regional semifinal games. Pickens County then beat Decatur Heritage, 50-47, in the regional finals and went on to win the 1A state championship.
Hatton's girls come into the game 25-3 and ranked No. 4 in Class 2A. The Hornets have won nine straight games by an average of 45 points.
Hatton's lineup goes 10 deep and the Hornets can kill you from anywhere on the floor. Center Kamie Kirk, who signed with Gadsden State, is averaging nearly a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds per game. Point guard Josie Harville signed with Shorter University and is averaging 11 points per game.
Lanett’s girls have a record of 10-8 but have won six of their last seven, including defeating LaFayette in the Elite Eight to avenge their loss in the area championship.
Should Hatton advance to the Finals it would take on the winner of Pisgah and St. Luke's.
No. 2 Pisgah defeated No. 1 Spring Garden to advance to the semifinals. The Eagles dropped to 2A this year after winning three straight state championships from 2018-20 in 3A.
Hatton's last state championship (2004) came by defeating Pisgah.
Hatton’s boys (18-7) come into the Final Four for the first time since 1999, when current head coach Justin Henley was an All-State senior for the Hornets. That year Hatton fell in the state finals to Catholic Montgomery 63-57.
The Hornets have won their last four games by single digits, including overcoming double-digit deficits in each of their last two games.
Hatton makes its living on defense as they held both Cold Springs to 48 points and Sheffield to 47 in the regional tournament.
Senior Ridge Harrison is the star for Hatton, but other players have made big impacts during the regional tournament. Against Sheffield, Harrison, Kris O'Dell and Braden Stafford all finished in double figures.
Hatton will take on Lanett. The Panthers are 18-4 and were ranked No. 5 in the last ASWA 2A basketball poll.
Lanett is similar to Sheffield in style. With two 6-foot-5 forwards and a 6-foot-4 guard, the Panthers have an athletic team and like to pound the ball inside and get quick runaway baskets.
Limiting turnovers will be key for Hatton. Against Sheffield, the Hornets allowed the Bulldogs to score 16 of their 26 first-half points off turnovers. In the second half they limited Sheffield to just two points off turnovers and outscored the Bulldogs 32-21.
Should Hatton advance, the Hornets will face the winner of Calhoun and Midfield. Calhoun is led by reigning Mr. Basketball and Alabama commit JD Davison.