Autauga Academy Wins State Title

Sunday night and again Monday morning, Josh Palmer spoke to his brother.

After Autauga Academy lost the 2019 AISA Class AA Men’s Basketball Championship game, Octavious Palmer vowed to himself that he would come back and help the Generals win it in 2020. Instead, they lost a three-point lead with 30 seconds to go and fell to Lake Academy.

Josh was a freshman on this team, Octavious a senior. Two years after that heartbreak, on the eve of Autauga’s return to the title match, Octavious told Josh not to go out like he did.

“(He said to) finish on top, don’t take no for an answer,” Josh said. “I took this with me.”

On Monday, when Chambers Academy’s Jordan Whaley missed a 3-pointer with 20 seconds remaining, Josh grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He sank both of his free throws, giving the Generals an eight-point lead and essentially sealing the deal. As time ticked away, he bounded across the pitch, covering his face with his jersey.

Autauga Academy won its first state title since 2008 with a 51-43 victory over Chambers, ending an 18-0 season and exorcising some demons in the process.

The Generals had lost in the championship game in 2017, 2019 and 2020. William Turner, their sophomore head coach, was an assistant on those teams.

“It’s nice to finally have one,” he said on Monday.

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Several times this season, Turner said, he felt like he was bringing a gun into a knife fight. With four double-digit scorers – Palmer and senior guards Robert Rose, AJ Perry, Pharrell Banks – Autauga’s run is ruthless, outscoring opponents by nearly 30 points on average.

“But you have to understand it’s a fight,” Turner said. “You can lose a knife fight with a gun very quickly.”

The Rebels slowed play and scored 10 unanswered points to take the lead after the first quarter. But after a timeout, Perry knocked down two 3-pointers in a row, after which the Generals never hung around. Both Turner and Palmer said it was the turning point.

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When Rose, who scored a team-high 16 points, made a 3-point shot three minutes from time, launching a bow and arrow celebration, it seemed like the dagger. Autauga took a 46-32 lead moments later. But Chambers went on an 11-2 run, forcing the generals to buckle up.

Turner never dwelt on Autauga’s heartbreak in the last title game with his team. He understood that it was not necessary, because they knew it in the back of their minds. Instead, he told his team to do what they had been doing all season.

“I pointed out before the game that we’re 17-0 for a reason,” he said.

Now the Generals are 18-0 and state champions, and Palmer was able to deliver on his own promise.

“It’s a moment I will cherish forever,” he said. “It’s a great feeling in life. I will tell my children and grandchildren that.”

AUTAUGA FOOTBALL: Generals win fourth state title in six years by beating Escambia Academy

Jacob Shames can be reached by email at [email protected], by phone at (334) 201-9117 and on Twitter @Jacob_Shames.

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