OBITUARIES: Decatur | Shoals | Huntsville
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Tanner eyes state championship
By Justin Graves
The Decatur Daily

Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily
Tanner’s Greg Maclin and Justin Smith embrace after the Rattlers defeated Luverne 51-50 in the Class 2A state semifinal in Birmingham on Tuesday. Tanner plays LaFayette at 11 a.m. Friday for the state championship.

BIRMINGHAM — Casually strolling through the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, Roger Whitt recounted the highs and lows of the day.

From Tanner High School’s fast start, to the sluggish first-half finish, the father of Rattlers coach Chris Whitt relived with friends all the key plays.

The top highlight: Tanner advanced past Luverne 51-50 on a free throw from Justin Smith with 2.4 seconds remaining, sending the third-ranked Rattlers (29-4) to the Class 2A boys state title game.

Tanner plays LaFayette at 11 a.m. Friday in the state finals.

And the day’s low point?

“We made it a little too interesting,” Roger Whitt said. “It wasn’t our best game, but we still won. Hopefully the guys will play up to their potential when we come back here Friday.

“When they do,, this team is hard to beat.”

Roger Whitt, a guitar-playing retired brick mason from Limestone County, loves Tanner basketball. He’s usually at every game, watching his son lead the team to its second 2A state title game in three years.

Tanner won the championship in 2011.

“This team is capable of doing the same thing,” Roger Whitt said. “But they’ve got to play to their potential.”

Most Tanner fans in the BJCC concourse shared his opinion.

“I think I had three or four heart attacks,” said Tona Haggermaker, whose son Jace is the Rattlers’ starting center. “That was way too close for my taste. Let’s hope it doesn’t go down to the wire next time.”

Estimated at about 400, Tanner didn’t bring the largest crowd for Day 1 of the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Final 48.

But the Rattlers’ contingency was among the most passionate.

Among the group who made the trek was Chelsea Haggermaker, a 2010 Clements High graduate who plays basketball at Auburn-Montgomery.

Chelsea Haggermaker starred on Clements’ 2010 Class 2A state title team, and she ditched class to watch her younger brother try to earn a basketball state championship ring.

“I wasn’t going to miss this,” she said. “I told my professor I had an appointment: a basketball appointment.”

Contact Justin Graves at 256-340-2460 or by email at jgraves@decaturdaily.com.

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