HANCEVILLE — Jasper had a plan for slowing down Fairfield big man Reginald “RJ” Perry in their Northwest Regional Tournament championship game on Wednesday.
The Vikings were hoping to keep Perry out of the lane while forcing Fairfield to rely on its perimeter shooting. Jasper also tried a 1-2-2 zone to clog the lane, keeping Perry in check.
None of it worked.
Perry went for 28 points, including 20 in a dominant first half, and 10 rebounds as the Tigers earned a 71-43 victory and their first trip to the state tournament in Birmingham.
Top-ranked Fairfield went to the 6-foot-6, 301-pound Perry under the goal throughout the first half with the Tennessee football signee scoring at will. Perry matched Jasper’s first-half output.
“I’m an old-school coach. If you got a big man, you use him,” Fairfield coach Maurice Ford said. “To me, you play inside out. We were going to get the ball inside until they stopped it. Fortunately, they couldn’t stop it.”
Fairfield took control early, jumping out to a 10-2 lead midway through the opening quarter.
“You can’t play them if you are down,” Jasper coach Robert Epps said. “You have to get the lead on them. If not, (Perry) is going to dictate the game. You can’t let him get in the middle of the paint. We were going to try to keep him moving. If he’s moving, you can push him out of the lane. If he stops, you can’t push him. That was the strategy we had and we kept letting him walk right down the middle of the lane.”
Jasper, which had no problem scoring in the regional opener against Lawrence County on Saturday, never found its stroke on Wednesday. The Vikings missed all nine of their shot attempts in the opening quarter, scoring their four points from the free throw line. Fairfield led 14-4 after the opening quarter.
Perry put the game away in the second quarter, scoring 11 points during a hectic three-minute stretch. He put the Tigers on top 20-7 at the 5:15 mark and added two layups and a three-point play before closing the run with another score in the lane for a 29-11 lead with 3:10 left in the half.
The Vikings (20-13) didn’t get closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
Jasper’s Antione Harris scored back-to-back baskets following a steal at the two-minute mark of the second quarter, making the score 30-17. Fairfield (27-5) closed the half with an 8-3 run for a 38-20 halftime lead.
The Vikings got within 14 points in the third quarter after two baskets by Antione Harris and two points from Anthony Harris. The Tigers again answered, this time with a 7-0 run. Fairfield took a 55-37 lead into the final quarter.
For Jasper, Antione Harris had 15 points, Anthony Harris added nine, Brent Geeter had eight, John David Harrell added five points and Harrison Saunders, Drew Martin and Kaden Shelton each had two points. Antione Harris and Geeter made the All-Regional Tournament Team.
Fairfield had four scorers in double figures. Malachi Holt-Bennett and Isaiah Davis each had 12 points and Jadarrius Torrance put in 10. The Tigers dominated the boards, out-rebounding Jasper 37-21.
Perry, the regional MVP, said he was motivated heading to Hanceville this season. The Tigers lost their regional opener to East Limestone last season.
“I had two points and four rebounds. It was the worst game of my life,” Perry said of last year’s regional game. “I said next time I go to Hanceville, I’m not going home sad. I promised coach that I was going to get him a ring before I go. That’s what I’m going to do.”