The Enterprise Wildcats are Final Four bound after defeating the Mary G. Montgomery Vikings by a score of 51-45 in the Regional Finals of the Class 7A State Boys Basketball Tournament on Feb. 26 in Montgomery.
The win sends Enterprise to the State Semifinals for the first time since the 1958 squad and marks just the second time an Enterprise team has made the Final Four. It’s also the first time any Enterprise team has ever made the Class 7A Final Four.
“This means a lot,” Enterprise coach Rhett Harrelson said after the win. “I get emotional talking about it. Basketball was my life coming up and this is where I went to school.
“To be a Wildcat means something, so to be able to lead this program and have the support I have and the basketball team has is truly special.”
The Wildcats came out firing early on as Enterprise went on an 18-2 run after Mary Montgomery made the first bucket of the game. Junior guard Quentin Hayes buried four three pointers in the first quarter helping lead the Wildcats to what ended up being an insurmountable 21-7 lead.
“Quentin Hayes was on fire early knocking threes down and he had a huge half,” Harrelson said. “That really made them start coming out and having to guard us at the three-point line.”
In the second quarter, the Wildcats slowed the game up and Mary Montgomery managed to outscore Enterprise 9-6 in the period to cut the Enterprise lead to 27-16 at halftime.
Mary Montgomery again outscored Enterprise 11-10 in the third quarter and eventually managed to cut the Wildcat lead all the way to four points in the fourth quarter.
“It’s a really fine line to be able to know when to pull it out (and drain clock) and when to attack,” Harrelson said. “I think we didn’t have a good feel for that early but we caught the rhythm of the game and held the ball and made them come out and guard us. It was also really big to get that big lead and get going early like that.”
As it looked like the Vikings might have a chance to cut the lead down further, Elijah Terry made a pair of buckets with under two minutes remaining and both he and Josh McCray hit big free throws to seal the 51-45 win.
Hayes finished the game with 18 points and Terry had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
“That’s Quentin Hayes, he’s done that all year long for us,” Harrelson said. “Elijah Terry had a double-double and played really tough down there for us, too.”
While his junior stars had big nights, Harrelson said the contributions from his senior class simply couldn’t be overlooked. These same seniors were a part of the Enterprise team that made it to the Elite 8 two years ago and Harrelson said their leadership was big.
“I thought multiple times throughout the game we had multiple guys that stepped up and made plays for us that were huge,” Harrelson said. “Jared Smith guarded (Mary Montgomery’s Tommie Law) and that kid is a heck of a player, but I felt like (Jared) did a really good job of taking that task and making everything tough on him.
“It was just a total team effort. Josh McCray played lights out. It doesn’t show up in the stats but his physicality and his play defensively gave them fits. Jalen Cunningham was a warrior tonight. He’s the smallest dude on the floor and had seven rebounds. He’s just tough as nails. Any night it could be any of our roster’s night. I think that makes it tough to game plan for us.”
Also, throughout the game the loud EHS student section could be heard keeping the team fired up and rattling the Vikings with chants. Harrelson made it a point to go over to the students after the game and thank them.
“It matters. This is for them, for (EHS) and for our city,” Harrelson emphasized. “I’m so grateful to be a part of Enterprise and have the support that we have. This hasn’t been done in a long, long time. I don’t now if we’ve ever made it to the Final Four before. This is what it’s all about.”
Enterprise will play Spain Park in the Class 7A Semifinals on March 2 at 4:30 p.m. from the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Spain Park, the Area 6 Champions, defeated Sparkman and Huntsville to earn its spot in the semifinals. Enterprise and Spain Park’s only common opponent this season was Mountain Brook, who both lost to earlier this season.