Elba picked a great time to be proficient on offense Tuesday.
Led by sensational junior Cobe Goosby, the Tigers shot 69.2 percent against Wicksburg, including 100 percent when it counted most – in the fourth quarter.
Sparked by 6-of-6 shooting from the floor and 10-of-14 free-throw shooting, the Tigers scored on 12 straight fourth quarter possessions and pulled away to a 67-59 win over the Panthers in Class 2A South Regional action at the Dothan Civic Center.
Elba (23-4) advanced to Friday’s regional finals against top-ranked Washington County, which defeated Houston Academy 57-52. Tuesday’s win was the first regional tournament win for Elba since 1994.
“We are really excited about what we can do,” junior forward Nick Green said of possibly reaching the state tournament in Birmingham.
The Tigers can thank Goosby and that proficient offense for being so close.
Goosby, a 6-foot-4 junior forward who will likely be one of the top seniors in the area next year, was unstoppable against Wicksburg. Providing a variety of drives, spin moves and short jumpers, Goosby hit 13-of-17 shots and finished with a game-high 28 points.
“He is so hard to prepare for because he covers so much ground on those spin moves,” Wicksburg head coach Scott Whitaker said. “He is so thick, so strong and can draw contact. He repositions his arms and he finishes a great shot. He gets a great shot every single time.
“I really can’t throw enough accolades to him. I knew he would be tough. I knew it last year when he was a 10th grader. It is very difficult to have a (defensive) strategy against someone like him because he demands a double team and he can still create offense.
“At times he got a triple team out of us and he still created offense. Tonight was not a fluke. That kid can really play.”
Wicksburg senior guard Spencer Rivenbark added of Goosby, “He is a special player with the spin moves he’s got. He is really good.”
With Elba up 46-45 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Tigers had a traveling violation on their opening possession. After a missed 3-pointer by Wicksburg, Elba scored on 12 straight possessions to build a 67-54 advantage.
Goosby was instrumental in a 10-4 three-minute run, helping the Tigers open up a 56-49 lead. He scored on a driving bank shot, a basket down low after picking up a loose ball, a short jumper, then a layup off the left side.
“My team looks up to me to take over in crunch time and they told me to do that, so I tried not to let them down,” Goosby said.
Shannon James had a layup to account for the other Elba score in the run.
Green followed Goosby’s last basket with a layup off a good pass from Shannon James, making it 6-of-6 shooting in the quarter for Elba and a 58-49 lead with 3:50 left. Green finished the game with 14 points, keyed by 6-of-6 shooting from the floor.
The Tigers wouldn’t attempt another field goal shot in the game as Wicksburg began fouling in hopes of missed free throws in an effort to come back. However, Elba was too deadly. Guard Raheem Newsom made 7-of-11 at the line, sparking a 10-of-14 effort in the last three minutes.
Wicksburg, behind two Trey McNeal baskets, stayed close during the Goosby-led run, but the Panthers went three-plus minutes without scoring, including a two-minute spell when they didn’t even have the ball after a technical foul and an intentional foul. The dry spell, along with Elba’s free-throw shooting, ended any comeback hopes.
Elba coach Karl Bledsoe said repetitions in practice helped his team offensively The Tigers hit 27-of-39 from the floor.
“It is obvious we try to get the ball to certain spots on the court,” Bledsoe said. “Some of these guys have been playing for me since they were in the seventh grade. Sometimes it is hard to get them to understand that when you are successful with something, it may seem boring, but we need to continue to do what makes us successful. When we get away from that, we can struggle at times.”
Martavious Gray, who hit 4 of 8 shots, had 11 points and Newsome had 10 for Elba.
Wicksburg, which finished the year 22-7, was led by McNeal with 13 points. Rivenbark had 12 points and Austin Sellers and Truman Whitaker had 10 each.
“It is tough being a senior, losing your last game,” said Sellers, one of five Panthers seniors. “I hate it for the other seniors on the team. We had a good year. We just couldn’t pull it out. Elba is a good team.”
Several weeks ago, Sellers had 24 points, including a game-winning basket in the final seconds in a Panther win over Elba. Most of the damage came off his ability to drive and penetrate the defense. On Tuesday, he was held to 4-of-6 shooting and rarely was able to penetrate the lane area.
“Their guards took my right hand away most of the night and they packed it in the lane,” Sellers said. “They did a good job. There wasn’t much I could do.”
Bledsoe said stopping Sellers’s penetration and forcing Wicksburg to shoot outside were defensive keys for his team. The Panthers did hit 7-of-22 on 3-pointers, but cooled off in the second half. Wicksburg did take advantage of some backside rebounds off long-range misses, especially early, leading to 15 offensive rebounds.
“That was one of the things we put on the board before the game – was that we had to stop No. 5 (Sellers),” Bledsoe said. “We did a good job of carrying out the game plan. He is an outstanding player and it took all we could do, but overall we were successful.
“We felt like we needed to make them shoot it from the outside. We didn’t box out for awhile and it almost cost us, but once we started boxing out, it all came together.”
The teams came out at a fast pace early and the Tigers finished the opening quarter up 21-20. Elba hit 9-of-13 in the quarter. Wicksburg was 6-of-15, including two 3-pointers, and the Panthers also hit 6 of 7 at the line.
Elba, behind two Goosby baskets in the final three minutes, eased out to a 38-33 halftime lead and moved out to a 42-33 lead early in the third. Wicksburg finished with a 12-4 run to cut it to 46-45 heading to the final period.