What you need to know about the AHSAA state basketball finals (2024)

The AHSAA state basketball finals (aka the final four) open Monday at Legacy Arena in Birmingham and run through Saturday.

RELATED: Rosters for Alabama-Mississippi Game

Here are some things fans need to know about the teams who made it all the way to Birmingham.

Welcome back, coach

The furthest thing from Arab girls coach Brad Kitchens’ mind a little more than a year ago was a trip to the AHSAA final four.

Kitchens had quadruple bypass surgery and a heart valve replacement in Huntsville in September of 2021.

Last Wednesday, he coached his Knights to a 48-44 win over Southside-Gadsden, earning the team a trip to the Class 5A state semifinals.

“A year and a half ago, I was lying in the hospital with quadruple bypass surgery and a heart valve replacement,” Kitchens said at Jacksonville State following the game. “I didn’t know if I’d be here tonight. I really didn’t. These girls helped me get through that.

“Fighting for them. Fighting to get back. Wanting to coach them. It helped me get through that surgery. I just appreciate that very much. They mean the world to me.”

Arab will play Brew Tech in the state semifinals at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

What you need to know about the AHSAA state basketball finals (1)

Redemption story

A year ago, Oakwood Academy didn’t get a chance to play in the Northeast Regional.

The Seventh Day Adventist school forfeited its regional semifinal game against Faith Christian since it would have been played during a time the church observes the Sabbath.

This year, the third-ranked Mustangs got their chance and capitalized. Oakwood defeated Skyline 58-50 to advance to their first final four.

They will open the tournament in Birmingham against Autaugaville at 1:30 p.m. Monday. There is no religious conflict this year as the team’s final game, if they win Monday, would be played at 5:45 p.m. Thursday.

The Seventh Day Adventist Church observes the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

“We’re just glad to be back here,” Oakwood Academy coach Melvin Allen said after his team’s semifinal win over Faith Christian. “We want to thank our coaches, our school, our church, our fans and the entire state for the support they gave us last year. The ruling from the AHSAA not only will make accommodations for our student-athletes but all student-athletes throughout the state regarding their religious faith.”

In May, the school filed a lawsuit against the AHSAA, stating its religious rights were violated, and the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Central Board of Control subsequently approved a new ruling in September allowing schools to request a religious accommodation during championship play when certain conditions are met.

“We were, of course, disappointed that we couldn’t play last year, but our faith was that all things work together for good,” Allen said. “That’s certainly has been something that I’ve kept before these student-athletes all year long.”

“The policy has been changed and you have an opportunity to play,” he added. “Now you have this awesome responsibility to work hard every day to get back. And they did that.”

What you need to know about the AHSAA state basketball finals (2)

Double duty

Four schools will be pulling double duty this week, sending both their boys and girls teams to the final four.

Those schools are Mars Hill (2A), Charles Henderson (5A), McGill-Toolen (6A) and Hoover (7A).

Reigning champs return

Seven reigning state champions are back in the state finals in 2023.

On the girls side, Marion County (1A), Prattville Christian (3A), Hazel Green (6A) and Hoover (7A) are all back. Hazel Green will be trying to break a state record (for boys and girls) with its sixth straight championship.

Hoover is going for its third straight and eighth since 2010. Prattville Christian is also vying for its third straight title, though the Panthers will have to do it in Class 4A this year after moving up due to competitive balance.

On the boys side, only three champs are back again. They are Covenant Christian (1A), Plainview (3A) and Jacksonville (4A). Plainview is looking for its fourth title since 2018. The Bears also won in 2018 and 2019 – both on last-second shots.

What you need to know about the AHSAA state basketball finals (3)

Who’s No. 1?

Eight teams ranked No. 1 in the final Alabama Sports Writers Association basketball rankings, which were published after the regular season, punched their tickets to Birmingham.

The top-ranked boys teams who will be competing at Legacy Arena are Ramsay (5A), Westminster Christian (4A) and Covenant Christian (1A). The other No. 1s who did not reach Birmingham were Vestavia Hills (7A), Pinson Valley (6A), Cottage Hill (3A) and North Sand Mountain (2A).

The girls No. 1s fared a little better. Five top-ranked teams are still alive for a state title. They are Hoover (7A), Hazel Green (6A), Trinity (3A), Cold Springs (2A) and Spring Garden (1A). Guntersville (5A) and Good Hope (4A) have been eliminated.

What you need to know about the AHSAA state basketball finals (4)

Still perfect

With Pinson Valley’s loss to Buckhorn in the Class 6A Northwest Regional final, only one girls or boys team has a chance to finish the year undefeated.

The Class 5A Valley boys enter this week 31-0 following Thursday’s 61-36 victory over Central-Clay County.

The Rams will play Scottsboro in the state semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. A win there would send them to the final against either Charles Henderson or Ramsay. That game is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. on Championship Saturday.

Championship records

A look at some crucial team records heading into the final four.

GIRLS:

Most state championships: Lauderdale County (13), Pisgah (10), Deshler (8), Hoover (8), Wenonah (8), Spring Garden (7), Fyffe (7), Mars Hill (7).

Consecutive state titles: Lauderdale County (5), Hazel Green (5), Pisgah (5).

BOYS:

Most state championships: R.C. Hatch (10), St. Jude (10), Madison Academy (7). Nine teams with six, including 2023 semifinalist Mountain Brook.

Consecutive state titles: Francis Marion (4), Sacred Heart (4). Nine teams with three each.

Championships on TV

Alabama Public Television and the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) are pleased to announce that the 2023 Alabama State Basketball Championships will be broadcast statewide on APT on March 2-4.

This will be the second set of high school championship games APT has broadcast in partnership with the AHSAA and NFHS Network. APT carried the AHSAA Super 7 Football Championships live from Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn in November and December.

“Interest in the high school football championships was tremendous,” said APT’s executive director, Wayne Reid. “We heard from excited viewers all over the state, and ratings for the bigger games were as strong as for some of our top PBS series.”

AHSAA Executive Director Alvin Briggs said having APT broadcast the championship games were well received during the recent Super 7 football championships.

“One of our goals has always been to make our games available to all households across the state,” Briggs said. “Having APT on board allows us to reach that goal with our basketball championships as well.”

APT’s broadcasts will include coverage of the boys and girls finals, which will begin Thursday afternoon with the Class 1A championship games at the BJCC. Championship games for Class 2A, 3A, and 4A will be aired over APT channels on Friday, and the Class 5A, 6A, and 7A games will be aired on Saturday, March 4.

All semifinal and championship games will be live streamed over the NFHS Network’s subscriber-based platform, and over the AHSAA TV Network as well. APT will not televise any semifinal games.

What you need to know about the AHSAA state basketball finals (5)

Final 4 tidbits

Susan Moore senior Cali Smallwood is 46 points from 2,000 in her career. The Montevallo signee also has 668 career rebounds.

Hoover’s Reniya Kelly is the leading scorer in school history with 2,210 points. She signed with the University of North Carolina. The Bucs are making their fifth straight trip to the final four.

The Scottsboro boys are making their second trip to the final four in three years. Before that, it had been more than 50 years since the team had made it that far. Parker Bell holds the school record for 3-pointers in a game with 10.

UMS-Wright senior point guard Bailey Washington has juggled some conflicts in recent weeks without missing any games. Washington was queen of the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association this year.

Charles Henderson boys coach Timothy Fayson played college basketball at Troy and was a member of the Trojan team that scored 258 points in a game against DeVry. “My teams are a reduced version of that playing style that is fast paced and fun to watch,” he said.

The Plainview boys return to the final four for the second consecutive season and fifth time in the last seven seasons. The Bears made four finals appearances (’17, ‘18, ‘19, ‘22) and won the title in ‘18, ‘19 and ‘22. Including this season, the Bears have been ranked No. 1 at some point in the season for the past six years.

Prattville Christian’s Coco Thomas is the only player in school history with 1,500 points and 1,500 rebounds in her career. She has signed with Shelton State.

The Mars Hill girls team has three sets of sisters on the roster.

Sparkman girls coach Jarvis Wilson is making his fifth trip to the final four with three different teams. He also led Blount and Carver-Birmingham to the state finals. Carver won a state championship in his final year there.

Hazel Green coach Tim Miller is making his 19th trip to the final four overall. In addition to his titles at Hazel Green, Miller also won a state championship at Montgomery’s Jeff Davis in 2006 and three at Bob Jones in Madison (2008, 2009, 2011).

Championship Week Schedule

Here is the schedule for this week’s games in Birmingham.

MONDAY

CLASS 1A GIRLS SEMIFINALS

S: Elba vs. NW: Marion County, 9 a.m.

C: Loachapoka vs. NE: Spring Garden, Noon

CLASS 1A BOYS SEMIFINALS

S: Florala vs. NW: Covenant Christian, 10:30 a.m.

C: Autaugaville vs. NE: Oakwood Academy, 1:30 p.m.

CLASS 2A GIRLS SEMIFINALS

S: Geneva County vs. NW: Mars Hill Bible, 3 p.m.

C: Cold Springs vs. NE: Lanett, 6 p.m.

CLASS 2A BOYS SEMIFINALS

S: St. Luke’s vs. NW: Mars Hill Bible, 4:30 p.m.

C: Aliceville vs. NE: Sand Rock, 7:30 p.m.

TUESDAY

CLASS 3A GIRLS SEMIFINALS

S: Pike County vs. NW: Clements, 9 a.m.

C: Trinity vs. NE: Susan Moore, Noon

CLASS 3A BOYS SEMIFINALS

S: Hillcrest-Evergreen vs. NW: Midfield, 10:30 a.m.

C: Sumter Central vs. NE: Plainview, 1:30 p.m.

CLASS 4A GIRLS SEMIFINALS

S: UMS-Wright vs. NW: Priceville, 3 p.m.

C: Prattville Christian vs. NE: New Hope, 6 p.m.

CLASS 4A BOYS SEMIFINALS

S: Montgomery Catholic vs. NW: Westminster Christian, 4:30 p.m.

C: Hale County vs. NE: Jacksonville, 7:30 p.m.

WEDNESDAY

CLASS 6A GIRLS SEMIFINALS

S: McGill-Toolen vs. NW: Hazel Green, 9 a.m.

C: Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa vs. NE: Huffman, Noon

CLASS 6A BOYS SEMIFINALS

S: McGill-Toolen vs. NW: Buckhorn, 10:30 a.m.

C: Paul Bryant vs. NE: Mountain Brook, 1:30 p.m.

CLASS 5A GIRLS SEMIFINALS

S: Charles Henderson vs. NW: Pleasant Grove, 3 p.m.

C: Brewbaker Tech vs. NE: Arab, 6 p.m.

CLASS 5A BOYS SEMIFINALS

S: Charles Henderson vs. NW: Ramsay, 4:30 p.m.

C: Valley vs. NE: Scottsboro, 7:30 p.m.

THURSDAY

CLASS 7A GIRLS SEMIFINALS

S: Prattville vs. NW: Hoover, 9 a.m.

C: Foley vs. NE: Sparkman, Noon

CLASS 7A BOYS SEMIFINALS

S: Dothan vs. NW: Hoover, 10:30 a.m.

C: Central-Phenix City vs. NE: Spain Park, 1:30 p.m.

CLASS 1A GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIP

Semifinal Winners, 4 p.m.

CLASS 1A BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP

Semifinal Winners, 5:45 p.m.

FRIDAY

CLASS 2A GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIP

Semifinal Winners, 9 a.m.

CLASS 2A BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP

Semifinal Winners, 10:45 a.m.

CLASS 3A GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIP

Semifinal Winners, 12:30 p.m.

CLASS 3A BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP

Semifinal Winners, 2:15 p.m.

CLASS 4A GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIP

Semifinal Winners, 4 p.m.

CLASS 4A BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP

Semifinal Winners, 5:45 p.m.

SATURDAY

CLASS 5A GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIP

Semifinal Winners, 9 a.m.

CLASS 5A BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP

Semifinal Winners, 10:45 a.m.

CLASS 6A GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIP

Semifinal Winners, 12:30 p.m.

CLASS 6A BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP

Semifinal Winners, 2:15 p.m.

CLASS 7A GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIP

Semifinal Winners, 4 p.m.

CLASS 7A BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP

Semifinal Winners, 5:45 p.m.

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What you need to know about the AHSAA state basketball finals (2024)
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