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Littles ends career on a high note

BIRMINGHAM — Emanuel Littles ended his Lanett High School career on a high note.

The senior was named MVP of the Class 2A State Tournament on Friday after leading the Panthers to a hard-fought, 41-38 victory over St. Luke’s Episcopal in the championship game at Legacy Arena.

He scored 13 points and recorded 10 rebounds in helping the Panthers clinch their third consecutive crown.

“To know that we’ve put our names in history forever, it feels great,” Littles said.

Littles’ strong performance was nothing new. The 6-foot-8 forward has been a double-double machine.

He had 15 points and 11 rebounds in a state semifinal win over Aliceville on Monday.  For the season, he has averaged more than 17 points and 16 rebounds per contest.

But Lanett has not needed Littles as much as it did on Friday, when a blue map was on the line.

The Panthers can typically rely on a platoon of players to contribute. The group includes fellow seniors Anquaevious Pollard and Ty Truitt, along with sophomore Kristian Story and junior Trikweze Bridges.

But on Friday they were  limited.

Pollard, who had 22 points in the win over Aliceville, was held to 12. Truitt, who scored 40 in the regional final, only scored two.

As a team, Lanett shot 37 percent from the field and didn’t connect on a single 3-point attempt.

The Panthers needed someone to step up. Littles delivered.

“At the beginning of the game, I saw our shots weren’t falling,” Pollard said, “so our offensive coach [Trentavious McCants] said just get the ball down inside because we have an advantage.”

Littles exploited it.

He powered down a putback dunk at the end of the first quarter and opened the second with a slick layup that he flicked over his head while standing beneath the basket.

Littles drew contact on the play, then drained the ensuing free throw.

“Sometimes you’ve got to go inside and see the ball go in the goal a couple of times to get your confidence up,” he said.

Littles had nine of his 13 points in the first half. His impact after the break was felt most heavily on the boards and on defense.

“That’s why it’s good to have team chemistry, because you believe in your brothers,” Littles said. “These are just not our teammates; they’re our brothers, and we trust and love each other.”

Two rings, one year

Of the seniors on Lanett’s basketball team, Littles was the only one who did not also play on the Panthers football team that won the 2A state title in December.

Pollard, Truitt, Jawon Howell, Jaren Ross and Braylon Harrington all spent the fall on the gridiron.

With Friday’s victory, Lanett became the first 2A school to secure football and basketball championships in the same academic year since Tanner in 2012-13.

McGill-Toolen achieved the feat in 2015-16 at the 7A level.

“It feels crazy, because you don’t see too many people do that,” Harrington said. “It feels like we made history.”

Chambers County on top

Lanett’s victory kept the 2A boys basketball championship trophy in Chambers County for a fourth consecutive year.

Before the Panthers began their run in 2016, LaFayette claimed the crown in 2015.

It will be up to the Bulldogs to sustain the streak next season. Lanett will spend the next two winters competing in 1A.

The Panthers will return seven players from this year’s varsity roster, including Bridges, Kaleb Thomas, Jayshon Burton, Tifton Dobbs, Quae Houston, Zameron Boozer and Cameron Boozer.