TUSCUMBIA — When Colbert Heights needed a big play, all the Wildcats had to do was look to the biggest and smallest players on the floor to supply it.
Kaleb Suggs, who stands 6-foot, 7-inches, and Trenton Roden, who is about a foot shorter, combined to score 39 points as the Wildcats defeated Red Bay 59-49 to win the Class 2A, Area 16 tournament championship.
Colbert Heights (18-9) will host Hatton in an sub-regional game at 7 p.m. Friday while Red Bay (10-20) will travel to play Tanner.
“Kaleb has been our go-to guy all year,” Colbert Heights coach Brad James said. “He’s what makes our team go. But little man (Roden) played his best game of the year tonight. He came up huge for us.”
Suggs dominated inside play for Colbert Heights, finishing with 26 points and 17 rebounds, but Roden was just as big for the Wildcats, especially in the fourth quarter, when Red Bay had cut the lead to one point.
Roden was able to continually drive to the basket and finish at the rim despite his short stature. He scored six of his 13 points in the final quarter, and his biggest play was an offensive rebound of all things. With Colbert Heights leading 38-35, Roden grabbed the rebound off a Suggs miss, and laid it back in. Then after a Red Bay miss, Roden drove the lane for a another layup to give the Wildcats a 42-35 lead with five minutes remaining.
Suggs scored on Colbert Heights’ next possession to finish off an 8-0 run that put the Wildcats comfortably back in front.
Red Bay got to within five points once more with just over two minutes to go, but Roden once again drove the lane for a layup to give Colbert Heights breathing room. The Wildcats then hit 9-of-11 free throws in the final 1:30 to seal the victory.
“Trenton was really able to penetrate and finish strong,” Suggs said. “Even though he is the smallest guy on the floor, he finished strong like he was big.”
Big is the operative word for Suggs, who towered over Red Bay players in the post, using his size advantage to get points and rebounds in bunches.
Suggs scored 14 first-half points in helping Colbert Heights to a 27-17 halftime lead, and at one point scored 13 consecutive points for the Wildcats spanning eight minutes of the second and third quarters. He even hit three 3-pointers for good measure.
“The game was really flowing to me at that point,” Suggs said. “It was going the way I like to play and the way we like to play as a team.”
Colbert Heights led 35-23 late in the third quarter, but Red Bay finished the quarter on a 10-0 run to get back in it.
With Suggs shutting down the Red Bay inside game, the Tigers looked to the perimeter for their points. Bradley Brooks scored 18 points on six 3-pointers and the Tigers had 11 triples as a team.
“We knew we were going to have to hit the outside shot to stay in the game, and Bradley Brooks kept us in it with his shooting,” Red Bay coach Greg Cash said. “We just dug too big of a hole in the first half. We didn’t show up the first half. It’s hard to win when you have just 17 points in a half. If we had played the first half the way we played in the second half, it would have been much better for us.”
Dylan Marlar added 10 points - including hitting 6-of-6 free throws in the final 1:30 - for Colbert Heights while Michael Ramirez had 10 for Red Bay.
The game was played in a packed gymnasium, which made winning the area championship all the more sweet for Suggs and the Wildcats.
“We had a big and loud home crowd in our favor,” Suggs said. “We fed off momentum from them. Colbert Heights hasn’t won an area championship in a while, and that made us want to go out and bust our butts to get one for our school in front of our fans.”