Three-peat on their minds

Published 10:07 pm Thursday, March 1, 2018

LANETT — Only one game separates the Lanett High School boys basketball team from a third consecutive state title.

The Panthers (25-5) will face St. Luke’s Episcopal (22-8) on Friday in the Class 2A state championship game. Tipoff is slated for 11:45 a.m. EST at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center’s Legacy Arena.

“We’ve prepared ourselves for it,” Lanett head coach Richard Carter said. “When you’ve played the kind of schedule we’ve played, we’ve prepared ourselves for this day. No doubt.”

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Lanett loaded its schedule on the front end with challenging games against stiff competition. In December, the team even participated in the nationally renowned Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina.

The Panthers dropped five games at the beginning of the season. But since early January, they have been close to unstoppable.

They ride a 15-game win streak, dating to Jan. 9, into Friday’s final. In the playoffs, Lanett has outscored opponents by an average of more than 20 points per game.

The Panthers roared past Aliceville, 75-64, in Monday’s state semifinal. Anquaevious Pollard recorded a game-high 22 points, and Ty Truitt added 21.

Emanuel Littles notched a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Carter is convinced his team will be able to duplicate its performance on Friday, as long as it takes care of three primary elements: remaining calm amid adversity, taking control with its pressure defense and remaining humble.

“Size wise, they don’t match up with us. Speed wise, they don’t match up with us,” Carter said. “But they’ve got savvy. You don’t get to the finals and not have done something right.”

St. Luke’s advanced to Friday’s contest by beating Tanner, 72-65, in Monday’s other state semifinal.

The Wildcats like to play at a slower pace than Lanett. Frequently, they feed the ball to 6-foot-5 forward Mark Wilcox. He is one of eight seniors on St. Luke’s roster.

Many of them were around for the 2016 state final, in which Lanett rolled to a 73-48 victory for its first state crown.

“Don’t think they’ve forgotten about it,” Carter said. “They remember it.”

Following Monday’s win over Tanner, St. Luke’s coach Kantonio Davis remarked in the postgame press conference that his team will need to play an intelligent brand of basketball if it wants to have a chance.

On paper, he knows his group will face an uphill battle.

“We’re ready for the challenge,” he said.

Only nine boys basketball teams have won back-to-back-to-back state championships in the 97-year history of the Alabama High School Athletic Association.

A win would make Lanett the 10th.

“A three-peat, a team that has done it three times in a row, man, that’s historical,” Carter said. “We made history when we won it the first time, we made history when won it the second time in a row, and now we want to make history again, three in a row.”