In the end, Quanetria Bolton’s strength inside and Raven Cooley’s 3-point shooting were too much for Hokes Bluff in Friday’s Class 4A sub-regional game at Anniston.
Bolton scored 26 points against bracketing defense, and Cooley added 15 as the Bulldogs held off the Eagles’ 3-point barrage to advance 63-50.
Anniston (22-5) will play Saturday’s winner between Guntersville and Randolph in the Class 4A Northeast Regional semifinals Thursday at 3 p.m. in Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews Coliseum.
“It means a lot,” Bolton said. “Coach (Anniston coach Eddie Bullock) has been there every year he’s been coaching, so we knew we had to live up to the standard.”
Hokes Bluff finished 22-7 and with a flurry of long-range shots from Carlie Shields. She hit seven 3-pointers en route to a game-high 29 points Friday and helped the Eagles trim Anniston’s lead under double-digits after the Bulldogs took as large as an 18-point lead.
While Anniston had some hairy moments against a scrappy Hokes Bluff team, the Bulldogs simply had too much athleticism and execution on offense.
Patient ball movement helped Bolton get her scoring chances against a box-and-chase defense, which saw Hokes Bluff’s Tylynn Register shadow her and try to stay between Bolton and the perimeter.
“It was tough,” Bolton said. “I had to keep working and really keep my position.”
The Bulldogs still managed to make passes over the bracketing defense, and Bolton either scored in the post or got fouled. She hit 10 of 12 free throws.
She helped Anniston build as large as a 41-23 lead when Hokes Bluff lost Carsheuna Curry on the back of the press a 1:45 of the third quarter.
“They’ve got a lot of players around her, too, and their speed hurt us,” Hokes Bluff coach Jason Shields said. “I thought we played a great game. We were going to have to have a perfect game in that situation.”
Anniston, meanwhile, was content to sit in a zone defense and make Hokes Bluff live and die on 3-pointers much of the game. It worked until the fourth quarter, when Bullock switched to a man-to-man.
“We started give up too many 3s,” Bullock said. “We told them who the scorers were, and we were supposed to close out and make them put the ball in the floor, and we blew it.”
Hokes Bluff scored all 12 of its third-quarter points on 3-pointers, and the Eagles made seven treys in the second half alone. They closed to within nine points four times in the fourth quarter, the last coming on Shields’ old-fashioned three-point play to make it 59-50 with 45 seconds left.
But Anniston held the ball and forced Hokes Bluff to foul, and Bolton hit two free throws to make it 61-50.
“We kind of got caught up on the switches and the picks,” Bolton said. “They were good. They’re really good shooters.”
Hannah Evans added 12 points for Hokes Bluff.
Contact Sports Columnist Joe Medley at email@example.com. On Twitter, @jmedley_star.