By Gary Lloyd
JACKSONVILLE — Too little, too late.
Clay-Chalkville shot just 28 percent and turned the ball over 21 times and fell 47-44 to Mountain Brook in the Class 6A Northeast Regional semifinals at Jacksonville State on Wednesday.
Trailing 43-40 with a minute to play, sophomore point guard Hasan Abdullah converted a lay-up to cut the deficit to 43-42. The Cougars then stole the inbounds and senior Marcus Baldwin scored to put Clay-Chalkville up 44-43 with :50 left.
Mountain Brook’s Malek Grant then scored a go-ahead lay-in off a deep pass and made two free throws with :10 left to seal the win. Clay-Chalkville didn’t get off a final shot.
“It was a hard-fought, close game until the end,” said Clay-Chalkville coach Daniel Foy.
Senior Cory Judkins led Clay-Chalkville with 14 points and six rebounds. Baldwin scored 11 and had five steals
. Abdullah scored seven points, grabbed seven rebounds and had three steals. He also turned the ball over four times. Pressuring Abdullah was one of Mountain Brook’s goals.
“It all comes down to halfcourt defense,” said Mountain Brook’s Jeremy Berman, who scored nine points and had four blocked shots.
Grant led all scorers with 20 points and nine rebounds for the Spartans.
Senior forward Darius Jordan scored two points and grabbed three rebounds before fouling out late in the fourth quarter for Clay-Chalkville. Senior Cedric Barnes scored six points and pulled down nine rebounds.
As a team, Clay-Chalkville (24-7) converted 13 of its 21 free throw attempts. Mountain Brook (27-6) made nine of 18.
The Cougars struggled in the first half to find an offensive rhythm. Mountain Brook’s full-court pressure forced the ball out of Abdullah’s hands much of the game.
“They pressure everybody and they’re really good at it,” Foy said.
Judkins, who missed a tough shot in the lane that would have given Clay-Chalkville the lead with less than :20 to play, said this year’s team has been “unbelievable.”
“I’m going to miss it,” Judkins said.
Mountain Brook advances to play No. 2 Lee-Huntsville on Friday at 10:45 a.m. at Pete Mathews Coliseum. Lee-Huntsville beat Huffman 71-62 earlier Wednesday.
Clay-Chalkville has made the regional tournament just twice in its history — in 2000 it lost 61-40 to Woodlawn and in 2001 it fell 77-48 to Parker.
Contact Gary Lloyd at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.