BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WSFA) - It seemed as if the entire city of Tuskegee, Alabama, made their way to Bill Harris Arena in Birmingham on Thursday to cheer on the Booker T. Washington boys basketball team. The Golden Eagles made their first ever state title appearance and hoped to bring home the school’s first title.
BTW faced off with Anniston, a team also searching for a long-overdue championship; the last time the Bulldogs won any hardware was back in 2009.
They started the first quarter hot thanks to senior guard Malcom Carlisle. He had two big dunks to help get Bulldog fans on their feet and gave his team an 11-10 lead at the first buzzer.
The Golden Eagles regrouped during the break, and came out blazing in the second. BTW stormed out to a 6-0 to run which put them on top by five. Anniston did find their groove at the end of the quarter, and would take a 23-21 lead in to the locker room at halftime.
Once again, BTW would have to battle from behind, but it didn’t take long for them to get going – Cameron Whitfield lit it up with a nice bucket from the free throw line, giving his team the lead.
But, it was short-lived.
With five seconds remaining in the 3rd, Antonio Kite went coast-to-coast in transition, finishing the fast-break play with an easy basket. It was followed by a steal on the BTW in-bound pass and Carlisle beat the buzzer to end the penultimate quarter, giving the Bulldogs the momentum and a 41-38 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
The Golden Eagles simply would not quit; after digging themselves into an 8-point deficit, BTW’s Jalien Fluellen found his stride with two big buckets to cut the lead. He finished with 10 points.
Then in the final minute, Whitfield was fouled; he made his first free throw to make it 54-50, and although he missed the second, his teammate #2 grabbed the board and the quick put-back.
It was a two-point game with 16.2 on the clock.
BTW had a chance to win it in the final seconds, but the last-ditch basket didn’t fall in their favor. The Golden Eagles’ Cinderella story was over, and Anniston captured the 4A State Championship with a 54-52 win.
“You know, it’s not the result we wanted,” said BTW head coach Corvin Johnson. “It sucks coming up on the short end of the stick, but from all the tears that was falling, I think it kinda lit a fire under the kids. They’re anxious to get back to work and we’re gonna do everything we can to be standing in this same position next year, but hopefully, with a smile on our face instead of a frown.”
Anniston’s Malcom Carlisle was named the 4A MVP with 28 points. His teammate Antonio Kite also made the All-Tournament team.
BTW’s Cameron Whitfield and Andrew Johnson were also selected.
The Golden Eagles finished the 2020-2021 season 19-5. It was the team’s first state title appearance in program history.