The Enterprise Wildcats the Class 7A, Area 3 Championship last week at home with a win over Jeff Davis by a score of 73-60.
The Wildcats (19-6, 8-0) remained unbeaten in area competition with a win over the Jeff Davis Volunteers Area 3 Championship on Feb. 13.
Enterprise and Jeff Davis slugged it out in the first quarter with the Cats taking a 16-14 lead into the second quarter. The two sides continued to play neck-and-neck with the Wildcats narrowly escaping the first half with a 32-30 lead.
In the third quarter, Enterprise began to pull away outscoring the Vols 18-12 in the third quarter and then opening up the fourth quarter on an 11-3 run before eventually capturing the title.
Enterprise was aggressive all game – especially in the second half – attacking the rim with seniors Jared Smith and Jalen Cunningham and juniors Quentin Hayes and Elijah Terry all making life tough for the Vols as they struggled to protect the rim.
“That’s really been what we’ve wanted to do the whole second half of the season,” Enterprise coach Rhett Harrelson said after the win. “We want to attack the rim, post up and be aggressive.”
That aggressiveness led to 34 points in the paint for the Wildcats and aggressiveness on defense led to 17 points off 16 Jeff Davis turnovers.
Hayes led the Wildcat attack with 17 points, six rebounds and two assists, while Cunningham had one of his best games of the year with 14 points and three rebounds. Smith added 16 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Terry chipped in with seven points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Josh McCray scored seven points and grabbed four rebounds with four steals on defense.
The win gives the Wildcats their first area tournament crown since 2012, when Harrelson was a senior at Enterprise.
“We found a way to get it done and that was huge and this is what it’s all about,” Harrelson said as fans and coaches of other Wildcat sports celebrated around him. “This is our first area championship in a long time and I’m just thrilled for these guys and really everyone involved. We’re going to enjoy this tonight but we’re not done yet.”
When Harrelson returned to his alma mater the Wildcats were coming off a combined 19-27 record over the previous two seasons, and since then have gone 73-39 and have made the state tournament three of the four seasons.
Not only does the win secure an area championship for the Wildcats, it also ensures that Enterprise will host the first round of regionals in the state tournament.
“It’s huge, you’re talking about playing at home instead of driving down to Mobile,” Harrelson said. “That is big to be able to take care of business and host another game at home.”
Enterprise will host the opening round of regionals on Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m. against Davidson.
The Wildcats started off the area tournament with a dominating 63-26 win in the semifinals after taking over in the second quarter. A pumped up Lions team jumped out to an early lead over Enterprise but eventually the Wildcats settled down and took a 12-9 lead into the second quarter.
The second quarter is where Enterprise started to turn up the heat and outscored Prattville 17-7 to take a 29-16 lead into the half.
In the third quarter, the Wildcats put away any Lion hopes of a comeback forcing turnover after turnover and outscoring Prattville 25-3 in the period. Enterprise also outscored Prattville 9-7 in the fourth quarter. The Lions never scored double digits in a single period.
“I thought we played hard. I thought Prattville played hard and it was a hard-fought game,” Harrelson said. “We came out and had a really good crowd despite the 20 percent capacity; our students were engaged. The environment, the way we played, I was pleased with everything.”
Enterprise shot 49 percent from the field in the win and held Prattville to just 21 percent shooting, while outrebounding the Lions 32-27. Enterprise also scored 22 points off 26 Prattville turnovers.
Terry was explosive, especially in the second half, scoring 15 points, grabbing six rebounds and earning two steals on defense in the win. McCray also had a big night with 10 points and five rebounds, while freshman Keion Dunlap scored eight points. Sophomore Jordan Hines added seven points and four rebounds.
Prattville didn’t have a player that scored more than six points.
Wildcat Arena was rocking from the start of the game and the atmosphere that the student section created, despite the Alabama High School Athletic Association restrictions on fan attendance, played a big part in the win, according to Harrelson.
“I think that is a major part of it,” Harrelson said. “The environment matters and I’m glad we are able to have fans, while abiding by the 20 percent rule.
“It’s really fun to see our students and our fans having fun with it. I’m very pleased with our home crowd and student section.”