Malique Elliott enjoys playing the role of showman.
Give the Austin High forward an opportunity to bring a crowd to its feet, and he will get above the rim and dunk.
Like he has done so many times this season, Elliott got his time in the spot light as Austin topped Hartselle 63-46 Tuesday night.
Sixteen points. Eight rebounds. And, of course, two dunks.
Not a bad night at the gym.
“We’ve been having fun,” Elliott said. “Right now, we’re just going out and playing ball and having a good time.”
Obviously for Austin, good times and up-tempo basketball are a winning combination. The Black Bears have won three straight and are picking up steam for the season’s final stretch run.
“But we’ve still got some tough games coming up,” Austin coach Demond Garth said. “It’s important that we keep our focus and keep getting better.”
Austin (12-6) never trailed Hartselle, building an eight-point lead by halftime.
And all of the Black Bears’ playmakers? They filled the boxscore up.
Austin got strong performances from its two sophomore budding stars. Josh Pearson finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Camron Reedus tossed in 11. Everette Mayes and Troy Harris each added nine points.
Behind Elliott and Pearson, Austin pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring Hartselle 17-10 during that stretch.
Timbo Slaton led Hartselle with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Preston Adams and Thomas Fleischman finished with nine points each.
“Hartselle is a team that’s never going to back down,” Garth said. “But our guys have kept their focus. We’re making shots … we’re doing a good job of getting the ball inside and making 3s when we get opportunities. All of those are good signs. Hopefully we can keep our intensity and focus, because we’ve got tough road ahead.”
Austin girls 53, Hartselle 41: Aaliyah Fuqua can’t explain it, but at some point in the past two weeks, the Austin junior found her confidence.
For an Austin team trying to develop depth before the postseason arrives, that’s a good thing.
Coming off the bench, Fuqua nailed a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter, sparking a 17-9 run that helped the Black Bears pull away.
“It’s like a light came on in my head and I realized there are more ways that I can our team,” Fuqua said.
Getting better play from its supporting cast, Austin appears to be a team that could be peaking just in time for the postseason tournaments. The Black Bears (15-5) have won six straight since losing a close game to Huntsville in the Decatur Orthopaedic Clinic Classic.
“This team, we’ve had to spend a lot of time learning how to play together,” sophomore forward Aaliyah Rice said. “There’s always room for improvement, but we’ve got great chemistry we all feel like we’re starting to play our best basketball.”
Austin blew open a close game with a series of scoring runs in the second and third quarters, building a comfortable 16-point cushion by the start of the foruth.
Takisha Jordan and Tyra Johnson paced Ausitn with 13 points each, while Katie Speegle and Rice each added eight.
Quanesha Burks led Hartselle (12-8) with 11 points, while Kaylee Shelton tossed in 10.
Justin Graves can be reached at 256-340-2460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.