By Stan J. Griffin: January 19, 2016

Photo by Stan J. Griffin

As a captain and an undisputed leader for the University of Alabama women's basketball team, senior Nikki Hegstetter is a constant force in the paint and on the boards, while also doing a host of things that do not always appear on stat sheets, such as taking key charges, scrapping on the floor for a loose ball and leading her team vocally and by example during games and workouts.
Her stellar work ethic also applies in the classroom and in the community, and then some.
Hegstetter, the native of Kennesaw, Ga., was selected as one of the 30 NCAA Division I women’s basketball student-athletes in the running for the 2016 Senior CLASS Award.

By Stan J. Griffin: January 18, 2016

For the Alabama and Auburn basketball teams, it is no doubt a tale of different moods as they get set for their first grudge match of the season Tuesday.
For Avery Johnson's Crimson Tide, it is a matter of rebounding from a frustrating 71-63 loss at Vanderbilt Saturday, a game that the Alabama players and coaches probably felt they could have won with respectable free throw shooting (The Tide made 7 of 20 from the line) and better second-half execution.
For Bruce Pearl's Tiger squad, however, it is a matter of coming back to earth following a 75-70 home win over No. 14 Kentucky, a victory which set off a delirious celebration among fans, players and coaches in Auburn Arena.  It was definitely the highlight of what has generally been a disappointing and injury-plagued hoop season for Auburn.
But as the old adage states, throw out the record books as the Crimson Tide (10-6 overall and 1-3 in Southeastern Conference play) squares up against the arch-rival Tigers (8-8 overall, 2-3 in SEC play) on The Plains.
The game is set to tipoff at 8 p.m. CT, and will be televised by SEC Network.
During a media opportunity Monday, Johnson said he is ready to see his team get back to work following the disappointing loss to the Commodores.
"We're really excited about getting back on the court tomorrow night," he said. "We didn't have our best game up in Nashville, and we didn't make our free throws, (Vanderbilt) got to the line too much, out of position defensively and another slow start in the second half and we've addressed all those things in our practices. Especially on the road, you have to start the game out strong, and hopefully start the second half strong and we didn't do either of those things. We've had a couple of good days of practice and ready to embark on this next challenge on the road."
While getting off to a good start is critical in any game, especially on the road, it may be more so in Tuesday's game as the Tigers and their fans are no doubt still buzzing from the upset over John Calipari's Kentucky team.

By Stan J. Griffin: January 17, 2016

The Alabama and Georgia women's basketball teams entered Sunday's Southeastern Conference battle with identical 1-3 SEC records, and looking for a big victory to avoid falling into a deep early hole in the conference race.
And with a loud and record crowd of 3,732 Alabama and Georgia fans on hand at venerable Foster Auditorium, and the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs engaging in an intense battle, the game at times had the feel of a tournament contest.
Although the game was tight until late in the fourth quarter, a swarming Tide defense proved to be the ultimate difference as Alabama pulled away late for a 64-50 win.
The Tide improved to 13-5 overall and 2-3 in SEC play while the Bulldogs fell to 13-5 overall and 1-4 in league competition.
“I think your crowd is your biggest advantage at home,” said senior forward Nikki Hegstetter. “That’s why I think you see the biggest upsets at home. Because, you feed off of the crowd. You play for the crowd. They’re there. They came and took time out of their day to watch you. That’s really important and special. I think that we fed off of that, and it helped us down the stretch to get key stops. They’re helping us that much more, and we really appreciate it. We’re playing for them, and we want to see them back out there.”
“I am just really proud of our team and the effort and the energy. They made critical plays and played to win, and I thought that was a key ingredient down the stretch, and I think it was because of our crowd,” added Crimson Tide head coach Kristy Curry. “3,700 (fans), record-setting and an incredible environment, and there may be moments that we may look back on like today, and it was incredible special. Thank you to our crowd and they were into the game and a very smart basketball crowd and just a really special day for our team."
Alabama scored the first two points of the opening quarter, only to have Joni Taylor's Bulldogs (Taylor was a former Tide player) score the next seven to go up 7-2.
Led by Hannah Cook, Shaquera Wade and Karyla Middlebrook, however, the Tide used an 11-2 spurt to go back up 13-9 with just under four minutes left in the period.

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 14, 2016

Frank Martin's 19/15 South Carolina basketball team entered Coleman Coliseum Wednesday hoping to keep its undefeated streak alive.
Avery Johnson's host Crimson Tide squad, meanwhile, was hoping to break a two-game losing streak and give its first-year coach his first Southeastern Conference victory.
Crimson Tide sophomore forward Riley Norris made it abundantly clear, though, that Alabama was not going to lose a second-consecutive home SEC game on this night, as he was in the zone early and often, leading his team to a stunning upset over the Gamecocks in front of a loud and energetic crowd no doubt still buzzing somewhat from UA's recent national championship in football.
Norris scored a game-high 27 points, including an 8 of 11 performance from 3-point territory, to lead the Crimson Tide to a convincing 73-50 victory.  His eight treys tied a school record.
With the win, its third over a Top 25 opponent this season, the Tide improved to 10-5 overall and 1-2 in league play, while South Carolina fell to 15-1 overall and 2-1 in SEC play.
"It's an incredible win and I'm proud of my guys," said Johnson. "We probably had one of our hardest practices (Tuesday) and our scout team, which consists of Avery Johnson, Jr., Lawson Schaffer, Nate King, Christian Clark and Donta (Hall), they really put it on our guys yesterday and it was an intense battle for the entire two hours plus. Every drill, every situation, and it carried on (into Wednesday's game). We rebounded the ball tonight, we got our defense set, we changed our defenses quite a bit tonight, and fortunately we kind of kept them off-balance. Frank Martin does a great job with his team and they represent the SEC in a very positive way this year. Outstanding team and outstanding effort from our guys."
The Gamecocks began the game ice cold from the field and Alabama, thanks to three early 3-point bombs by Norris, was able to jump to a 13-2 advantage in the first seven minutes or so of the contest.

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."

Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

For a half, Monday night's College Football Playoff National Championship Game between Alabama and Clemson simply lived up to the hype of what most people had anticipated with Nick Saban's No. 2 Crimson Tide going to battle against Dabo Swinney's No. 1 and undefeated Tigers.

However, in the game's final 30 minutes, the game simply became an epic title clash for the ages as both teams continued to trade punches in a titanic struggle filled with individual heroics, clutch plays, a great deal of drama and a host of momentum swings.

It was the resilient Alabama team, however, that cemented the Crimson Tide program's legitimate status of dynasty with a pulsating 45-40 triumph over Swinney's team in front of 75,756 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  The victory secured the Crimson Tide program's 16th national championship and fourth in the last seven years.

The Tide, with its 12th consecutive victory following an early loss to Ole Miss, finished its championship season with a sparkling 14-1 record, while the Tigers, hoping to become the first 15-0 team in the history of college football, fell one game short in that quest.

“This is, I hate to say, my favorite team because I love them all, but these guys have come so far and accomplished so much," said a beaming Saban after the win which gave him his fifth national title, and fourth with the Crimson Tide program. "Their will, their spirit, and their willingness to compete and do the things they needed to do to be the kind of team they could be. I’m so happy for the team. This was all about winning the game for them. This is great for our fans and it is great for the state of Alabama. There weren’t very many people early in the season that thought this team could do it. I’ve never been prouder for a group of guys than this, that’s why I’m so happy for these players They have tremendous passion for each other and for the game. We didn’t play our best game tonight, but they did what they had to win. I’m smiling.”

Alabama, not surprisingly, was led in large part in the title win by junior tailback and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, as he carried the ball 36 times for 158 yards and three touchdowns, including a 50-yarder in the first quarter.

But the Crimson Tide also gained pivotal contributions from a myriad of other weapons such as tight end O.J. Howard (the offensive player of the game). quarterback Jake Coker, defensive back Eddie Jackson (the defensive player of the game), senior tailback Kenyan Drake, defensive back Geno Matias-Smith and linebacker Reuben Foster, Alabama players who truly writ their names in Crimson fame on this magical night for Saban's program. 

Howard was the main star of the night for the Tide as he caught five passes for a championship game-record 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Coker, the senior from Mobile, also came up huge in joining Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarron as those who have quarterbacked the Tide to national titles under Saban, completing 16 of 25 passes for a career-high 335 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Alabama, coming off a 38-0 win over Michigan State in the Dec. 31 CFP semifinals, struck first midway through the first quarter as Henry finished off a 3-play, 59-yard drive with a 50-yard ramble for a score. Henry accounted for all 59 yards on that series.
At the 5:18 mark of the quarter, however, Clemson tied things up when Watson connected with Hunter Renfrow on a 31-yard scoring pass, capping a 6-play, 54-yard march.
Later in the period, the Tigers put together a 73-yard drive, and that drive ended with no time left on the clock as Watson hooked up with Renfrow again, this time on an 11-yard TD pass that put Clemson ahead 14-7.

In the second quarter, the Crimson Tide went to work at the Tiger 42-yard-line following an Eddie Jackson interception of a Watson pass.
Henry finished that drive off at the 9:35 mark of the quarter with a 1-yard run and the game was tied 14-14 at halftime.
The Crimson Tide regained the lead early in the third quarter, capping a 3-play, 64-yard drive as Coker hit Howard on a 53-yard touchdown bomb.  The Tide now led 21-14 in this back-and-forth thriller.

A little under three minutes later, the Tigers cut the Alabama lead to 21-17 as Greg Huegel was true on a 37-yard field goal.

Clemson completed the scoring in the third quarter by regaining the lead, as a 1-yard scoring run by Wayne Gallman capped a 9-play, 60-yard march, putting the Tigers back up 24-21.

At the 10:34 mark of the final period, the Crimson Tide tied the score again as Griffith was good on a 33-yard field goal to complete a 64-yard drive.

The Crimson Tide then pulled off a bit of unexpected trickery as Griffith executed a perfect onside kick attempt, which Tide freshman Marlon Humphrey recovered at midfield.

Two plays later, Alabama capitalized on the special teams heroics as Coker again hit Howard on a big scoring aerial, this one for 51 yards to suddenly put the Crimson Tide up 31-24, with the Tide totally in control of the game momentum at this point. Howard's yardage total on the night is a Crimson Tide record for a tight end.

Huegel hit a 31-yard field goal on Clemson's next possession to cut the Tide lead to 31-27, but Drake took the ensuing kickoff and took it the distance for a 95-yard TD and Alabama had a seemingly-comfortable 38-27 advantage, but with still 7:31 remaining in this instant classic.

Watson and company refused to fold, however, and on the next Clemson series, the Tigers marched 75 yards, and the drive was capped when Watson hit Artavis Scott on a 15-yard scoring pass with 4:40 remaining.  A two-point conversion failed, but the Tide lead now was only 38-33.

Alabama effectively sealed the deal, however, on its ensuing series, setting up shop at the Tide 25, and driving 75 yards for the game-clinching touchdown. Henry capped the series with a 1-yard dive, his third score of the night, with just over a minute left to make the lead 45-33. Henry broke season and career school record for rushing yards and rushing touchdowns during the game.
With only 12 seconds left, Watson hit Jordan Leggett on a 24-yard scoring pass to make the score 45-40, but its onside kick attempt went out of bounds and Alabama was able to run out the clock and then break into a wild celebration that preceded the championship trophy presentation.

For Alabama, which tallied 473 offensive yards in the contest, ArDaris Stewart caught two passes for 63 yards while Drake had two receptions for 21 yards.

Griffith hit 1 of 2 field goals while having the big onside kick while punter JK Scott had seven kicks for an average of 42.4 yards and a long kick of 52 yards.

Matias-Smith led Alabama defensively with 11 tackles, while Foster had nine and Cyrus Jones, Reggie Ragland and Humphrey with five each. Rashaan Evans had three tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss. Jackson contributed the huge interception..

The Alabama win spoiled a prolific performance by Clemson quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson, who completed 30 of 47 passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns while also carrying the ball 20 times for another 73 yards.

He led a Tiger offense which tallied 550 yards

Special thanks: Alabama Athletics Communications

Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

 Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

The Avery Johnson led Alabama hoops team is fresh off a 66-74 loss on Thursday night in its SEC opener at Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide came into the game with an impressive 9-3 record but was unable to maintain the momentum from their non-conference schedule.

After the first half, it seemed as if the Tide were going to roll and ruin the grand opening of The Pavilion. The Crimson Tide were hot from beyond the arc in the first half, making 7-13 attempts. They also shot 50% from the field and took a 40-32 lead into the locker room.

Alabama went cold from three in the second half and was unable to maintain their lead. Ole Miss took the lead on a layup with about 9:21 remaining in the second half and never looked back. The Tide were plagued by their inability to generate offense in the half-court and by their 18 turnovers.

Alabama will look to bounce back on Saturday when they head home to face the #9 Kentucky Wildcats. The Wildcats are coming off an embarrassing loss to the LSU Tigers on Tuesday night. The Wildcats were blown out on National TV, so they will be focused and looking to avenge the loss.

The Wildcats have been battling inconsistency the whole season, which leaves the door open for the Crimson Tide to walk into Coleman Coliseum and pull off the upset.  In order for the Tide to pull off this win, they must execute their half-court offense and eliminate those deadly turnovers.

The game is scheduled for 6:00 P.M. on Saturday and will be broadcasted on the SEC Network and Watch ESPN. Be sure to tune in to see which team can end their slide.

 Courtesy of Crimson Magazine


Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

Andy Kennedy's Ole Miss basketball team opened its impressive new basketball arena, The Pavilion at Ole Miss, Thursday night, and was looking to break in the new venue in style at the expense of Avery Johnson's Alabama team, in the Southeastern Conference opener for the Crimson Tide.

The Tide, of course, was hoping to spoil the Rebel party, but despite a valiant effort and big nights from seniors Retin Obasohan and Arthur Edwards, Alabama fell short, falling 74-66 to Kennedy's team in front of 9,500 frenzied home fans.

Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.


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