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By Stan J. Griffin: January 15, 2016

The University of Alabama national champion football team is not the only Crimson Tide squad who knows how to put together a good finish.
Against Missouri in its home and Southeastern Conference opener Friday night, Dana Duckworth's No. 6 Alabama gymnastics team started fast, but it was the final routine for the Tide that was the real story.
The Tide finished its final routine, the floor exercise, with 9.95s by Amanda Jetter (a career-high) and Lauren Beers with a 9.9 added by Ariana Guerra. And the overall floor score of 49.500 by the Tide on the floor was the highlight of a 197.175-196-050 win by the host Alabama team over the No. 14 Tigers in front of a loud crowd of 10,860 at Coleman Coliseum.
The SEC triumph was no doubt an especially big one for Duckworth's team, as the Tide was coming off a season-opening loss to UCLA, and facing a quick turnaround as Alabama is set to battle arch-rival Auburn on Sunday in Birmingham.
“It was so exciting, the crowd got into (the Tide's floor exercise) after the first couple routines,” Jetter said. “I just love doing floor, it’s so enjoyable and I know all of the rest of the team looks forward to the floor routines because it’s so exciting and we just get so into it. I thought it was very cool.”
The Tide began the night on the vault, where it scored a 49.350.
Beers led the way with a 9.9, while Kiana Winston and Katie Bailey both had 9.875s, Mack Brannan and Jenna Bresette both tallied 9.85s and Keely McNeer had a 9.8.  Missouri, meanwhile, scored a 49.050 on the bars in its first routine.
In its second routine, the Crimson Tide scored a 49.175 on the uneven bars, while Missouri scored 49.025 on the vault.
Leading the way for Alabama was Jetter with a 9.875, while McNeer had a 9.850, Bailey and Brannan had 9.825s, Winston scored a 9.800 and Angelina Giancroce tallied a 9.775.

By Stan J. Griffin: January 14, 2016

With prep basketball continuing to heat up following the holidays, a host of Tuscaloosa/West Alabama roundball teams find themselves enjoying big seasons.
Several local schools are included in the latest Alabama Sports Writers Association poll, released Wednesday.

In the Class 7A poll, the Tuscaloosa County High School Lady Wildcats are ranked No. 10 with their 15-5 record as of Thursday. In the Class 5A poll, meanwhile, the Central-Tuscaloosa Lady Falcons are ranked No. 4 with their 18-5 record.  TCHS defeated Thompson 48-38 on Tuesday.  The Lady Falcons crushed Holt on Tuesday 73-18.
In the Class 4A poll, the Sipsey Valley Lady Bears are ranked No. 3 as they have won 15 of their first 20 games. The Lady Bears coasted past the Northside Lady Rams on Tuesday 70-20.
In Class 2A, the Holy Spirit Lady Titans, with a record of 11-3, find themselves in the No. 7 spot.
In the AISA ranks, the Tuscaloosa Academy Lady Knights are ranked No. 4 with their 12-4 record.  The Lady Knights topped Southern Academy on Tuesday 46-17.

By Stan J. Griffin: January 13, 2016

Although the No. 6 University of Alabama gymnastics team enters this week's action coming off of a season-opening loss to a strong UCLA team in Los Angeles, you will not detect any moping or long faces with any of Dana Duckworth's Crimson Tide gymnasts.
And there are a couple of reasons for that.
First of all, one meet, and a close one at that, hardly defines a team at this point when there is still a long season ahead.
Secondly, Alabama's gymnasts simply do not have time to dwell on the loss to the Bruins as they must prepare for two meets this week, which adds up to three meets in an eight-day time frame.
The Crimson Tide has its first home meet of the season Friday as it hosts No. 14 Missouri at Coleman Coliseum, with that meet set to begin at 6 p.m.
Then Alabama turns right back around and faces arch-rival and No. 7 Auburn in the annual Elevate the Stage meet at Birmingham's Legacy Arena.
That meet is set for a 3 p.m. start.
Duckworth said Wednesday she does not see the need for any significant adjustment with her team at this point as it tries to rebound from the opening defeat, and with a busy weekend upcoming.
"I think the biggest thing we can improve on is continuing to do what we do everyday and transitioning it into the competition," she said. "We really went into (this week) asking the ladies don't go any bigger, don't go any better, don't do it differently. And the problem areas we had last week were because we changed what we do. And so I feel like we have to do some small things to continue that message and continue that kind of expectation of a team, and we're going to be great."

By Stan J. Griffin: December 31, 2015

With the No. 2 Alabama football team struggling on offense for a good portion of the first half Thursday against Michigan State, the contest was competitive score-wise, even with the aggressive Crimson Tide defense allowing the Spartans no semblance of consistent offensive success.
But once senior quarterback Jake Coker, freshman receiver Calvin Ridley, junior tailback Derrick Henry and a myriad of  others finally began to find their rhythm, the playoff semifinal showdown quickly began to deteriorate into a crimson quagmire for senior Spartan quarterback Connor Cook and the No. 3 Michigan State team, one that it simply could not withstand.
The result was a dominating 38-0 victory by Nick Saban's Southeastern Conference champions (13-1) over Mark Dantonio's Big 10 champion squad (12-2) in Arlington, Texas, which advanced Alabama to the Jan. 11, 2016 College Football Playoff Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona.
There the Crimson Tide will have the opportunity to play for the program's 16th national title.
The Crimson Tide will face Dabo Swinney's No. 1 and undefeated (14-0) Clemson Tigers at University of Phoenix Stadium.  Clemson advanced to the title game Thursday with a 37-17 victory over No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
The Crimson Tide has already opened up as a 7-point favorite over Swinney's team. The national title game is set for a 7:30 p.m. CST kickoff and the game will be televised by ESPN.
"I think last year when we came to this game I think we were just happy to be in the game," Saban said. "This year we wanted to take the game."
Coker was the star Thursday night for Saban's team as it rolled to the national championship game in front of a crowd of 82,812 at AT&T Stadium. He completed 25 of 30 passes for a career-high 286 yards and two touchdowns.
Ridley, meanwhile, had 138 receiving yards on 8 catches for 2 touchdowns, setting a new Alabama freshman record for single-season receiving yards in the process (1,031 yards).

By Stan J. Griffin: December 21, 2015

As the University of Alabama basketball team was able to maintain a double-digit advantage for a good portion of the first half against Oregon Monday night, it appeared that Avery Johnson's Crimson Tide team had a great shot of extending its win streak to six games, while gaining another impressive victory for the non-conference resume.
The  Ducks had other ideas, and a strong second-half surge by Dana Altman's team was able to overcome a career game by Tide sophomore guard and Birmingham native Justin Coleman as Oregon nipped Alabama 72-68 in an entertaining affair at Birmingham's Legacy Arena.
The Tide fell to 7-3 on the season while Oregon improved to 10-2.
The early portion of The Vulcan Classic was dictated by runs from both teams.
With Alabama up 5-2, the Ducks used a 6-0 run to go up by three points at 8-5, but Coleman had a personal 9-0 run for the Tide as Alabama moved back on top 14-8 at the 12:08 mark of the first half. The overall Tide run grew to 12-0 and put UA up 17-8.
With the lead at 17-14 after Oregon scored six in a row, Alabama tallied five-straight points as the Crimson Tide built its advantage to 22-14 at the 8:05 mark.
Riley Norris hit a trey with just under seven minutes remaining to boost the lead to double-digits at 28-18. and a Brandon Austin dunk built the Alabama lead to 32-20 at the 5:32 mark.
Oregon cut the lead to nine points on one occasion after this, but at the half, Alabama maintained a 38-26 advantage, thanks in large part to the 12 points of Coleman.
With the Tide up 40-28 in the second half, the wheels began to wobble a bit for the Crimson Tide and the Ducks began to heat up offensively while also turning it up a notch on the defensive end.

Zachary Smith of Holy Spirit Catholic School qualified for A finals in the Butterfly and Back Stroke events at the AHSAA State Swimming meet. He placed 2nd in the 100 Butterfly with a time of 49.15, earning him All American honors and swam the 100 back stroke with a PR time of 51.54, coming in 4th overall in the individual events. Holy Spirit ranked 5th place in the boys team 1A-5A division.

Photo: Laurie Mitchell

Congratulations to Mac Smelley, who was awarded Most Valuable Player at the recent TA Invitational Basketball Tournament.

In addition, TA athletes Addison Harrison and Chloe Johnson made the All-Tournament Team.

Students who participated in the tournament include (L to R, Front Row): Chloe Johnson, Anna Claire Diaz, Katherine Tucker and Chandler Turnipseed; (Back Row): Caroline Robinson, Elizabeth Tucker, Addison Harrison, Mackenzie Smelley, Maggi Diaz, Carlie Cochran, Maciah Flournoy and Laura Brooks

Photo: Chelsea McKenna

By Stan J. Griffin: December 16, 2015

Avery Johnson's University of Alabama basketball team finally returned to Coleman Coliseum Wednesday after nearly a month on the road, although that stretch away from home may have seemed like an eternity at times for Johnson and his Crimson Tide players.
Still, the Tide entered its game against the Winthrop Eagles riding a four-game win streak, and despite the fact that the visitors put forth a stubborn effort against Alabama the entire way, a 17-2 run by the home team in the second half proved pivotal as Johnson's team gained a 72-60 triumph.
Alabama, with its fifth-straight win, improved to 7-2 on the season while Winthrop fell to 6-3.
The first half was close the entire way as Alabama, playing without junior forward Shannon Hale due to an undisclosed medical condition, struggled offensively most of the first 20 minutes.
Both teams traded leads early, but with Alabama up 11-9, the visitors used a 6-0 run to take a lead of 15-11 at the 8:34 mark of the half.
With Winthrop still leading 18-15, Tide freshman guard Brandon Austin hit a trey and another bucket to put Alabama back in the lead 20-18 at the 6:30 mark.
With the Tide up 25-20 after consecutive buckets by Arthur Edwards, Keon Johnson, who had a game-high 17 points in the first half for Winthrop, led the Eagles on a 7-0 spurt to give them a 27-25 advantage.
Sophomore Jimmie Taylor, however, scored five-consecutive points for the Crimson Tide to put Alabama back on top 30-27 at the 1:17 mark.
The Tide led 32-27 at the intermission after finishing the first half on a 7-0 run.

By Stan J. Griffin: December 16, 2015

As the high school football season was winding down for schools in the Tuscaloosa/West Alabama area, the prep basketball season was just beginning to heat up.
Now with the gridiron season totally over following the Super 7 championships, basketball teams from all over the area can focus on big seasons on the hardwood, with hopeful roundball titles to come down the road.
A few local teams have begun the season in good form, and in fact several of those squads were included in the ranks as the Alabama Sports Writers Association (ASWA) released its first basketball poll of the season recently.
On the boy's side in the 5A ASWA rankings, the Central Falcons were ranked No. 6 after a 7-2 start while in Class 4A Bibb County was ranked No. 3 after the Choctaws won five of their first seven games.
A couple of local schools are included in the Class 3A rankings, including the No. 3 Hale County Wildcats (who started 7-2) and the No. 5 Winfield Pirates (5-0).  Hale County improved to 9-2 Tuesday with 62-61 nailbiter over Francis Marion. Herbert Jones led the Wildcats with 26 points, 16 boards and 10 steals.

Congratulations to the 11-12 Huntington Cowboys, who finished the season going undefeated. The team won the championship for the fourth consecutive season.

And a huge congrats as well to the 11-12 PARA American All-Stars, who played in Bryant-Denny Stadium as part of the Harry Lee All-Star Classic. The team was composed of players from the Huntington Cowboys, the Rock Quarry Jaguars and the Skyland Falcons.

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