Arms crossed in frustration, Austin High coach Demond Garth barked out instructions for the final shot of the game.
The desperation heave bounced off the front of the rim. Didn’t matter, though.
Not enough time. Too deep of a hole.
For the second straight game, Austin struggled from the field, falling behind in the second half as James Clemens held off the Black Bears 55-51 Tuesday night — creating havoc in the Class 6A, Area 16 standings.
Austin, once considered the favorite in Area 16, can no longer win the regular-season title without help. The Black Bears (12-5, 2-2 in Area 16) have area games remaining at James Clemens and Florence.
And James Clemens? Well, the Jets (11-9, 2-1), a first-year program, are now in position to make a run at the top seed for the Area 16 tournament.
“We’re gradually getting better,” said James Clemens coach Luther Tiggs, who took over the program after a successful stint at Sparkman. “Right now, we’re shooting the ball better and playing better defensively.
“Some nights we look good. Some nights we don’t. But this is still a growing process for us.”
A growing process that’s well ahead of schedule.
James Clemens has two Area 16 games remaining with Decatur. If the Jets win out, they can finish no worse than a tie for the tournament’s top seed.
Austin never gained any offensive momentum, struggling to finish shots at the rim.
“The fact of the matter is we’re not getting better,” Garth said. “We’re not finishing plays — not doing the things we need to win. It’s very frustrating. We have to get better.”
Austin carried a 26-25 lead into halftime, but James Clemens made a run late. Alfonso Johnson and Jeremy Best combined for 15 points in the second half as the Jets built a nine-point cushion by the midway point of the fourth quarter.
Johnson led James Clemens with 11 points, with seven coming in the second half. Tykeem Franklin added 10 points.
Everette Mayes paced Austin with 11 points, while Troy Harris finished with 10. Malique Elliott added nine points for the Black Bears, who have lost two straight.
Austin travels to Florence Friday.
Austin girls 44, James Clemens 32: The Black Bears used a fast start to cruise past James Clemens for a Class 6A, Area 16 win.
Takisha Jordan and Katie Speegle combined for 21 points in the first half, helping Austin build a 13-point cushion by halftime.
Jordan paced Austin with 13 points, with 11 coming in the first half. Speegle and Aaliyah Rice each added 10 for the Black Bears (12-5, 4-0).
China Leary led James Clemens with 12 points, while Markayla Parker added eight points.
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