American Christian Tops Deshler to Advance to Boys Class 4A Title Game

By Josh Bean | For the AHSAA

BIRMINGHAM – American Christian Academy senior Hunter Bates made the most of his opportunity, and the Patriots will now play for a state title for the first time in school history.

Bates turn a fourth-quarter steal into a breakaway layup with 1:46 remaining in Tuesday’s Class 4A boys’ state semifinal at the BJCC’s Legacy Arena. The bucket staked the Patriots to 55-53 lead, and ACA held on for a 58-54 victory over Deshler.

“I knew the pass was coming,” Bates said. “When I stole it, all I was thinking about was making the layup. I knew (a defender) was behind me.”

American Christian (28-7), led by interim coach Austin Grammer, advances to the 104th AHSAA State Basketball Championships Class 4A finals Friday to play the winner of the  DAR-Jackson semifinal scheduled for the last game of the night. It’s the first AHSAA basketball championship-game appearance in ACA school history.

American Christian’s Eric Hines scores two of his game-high 17 points to pace the Patriots to the AHSAA Class 4A state tourney win overt Deshler at Legacy Arena.
(AHSAA PHOTO | David Holtsford)

The victory was especially sweet for the Patriots, as head coach Blake Thrasher watched from the stands. He was diagnosed with leukemia in late 2023, which sidelined him from his coaching duties early in the season to concentrate on his cancer battle.

“He’s a part of us and what we do,” Grammer said. “This is really what he’s built. I want us to honor him with that, highlight him in that.”

ACA guard Davis Dare added. “We’re going to do it for him.”

Deshler, coached by Brian Pounders, was playing in the state semifinals for the first time since 2008. Getting to the semifinals was quite an accomplishment for a team that started the season 1-6.

Click here to check out schedules and score from the 2024 AHSAA State Basketball Finals. 

“We didn’t lose because we didn’t play hard,” Pounders said of the semifinal four-point loss. “The ball just didn’t bounce our way. … Maybe the next time we get down here we can punch the door down and get to the championship game.”

Eric Hines led American Christian with 17 points and 19 rebounds, while Bates and Dare added 12 points apiece. Samuel Holt scored 10 points.

Javious Carroll (12) of Deshler flies high for a basket as American
Christian’s Daniel Duncan defends. (AHSAA PHOTO | David Holtsford)

For Deshler (22-12), Garrett Reid tallied 20 points, two assists and two steals, and Jay Murner added 10 points and 10 rebounds. Khalil Bland had 12 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Play continues Tuesday night at the Legacy Arena with the remaining Class 4A girls’ and boys’ semifinals. Classes 6A and 5A open their tourneys Wednesday, and Class 7A plays Thursday morning. Championship games will begin Thursday in Class 1A. Finals for Classes 2A, 3A and 4A will be Friday, and Classes 5A, 6A and 7A close out the 2024 state tourney on Saturday.

Hunter Bates (15) turns a key steal into the game-deciding basket as Deshler’s Aiden Woody (11) gives chase late in the fourth quarter. (AHSAA PHOTO | Josh Bean)

All semifinal games are being live streamed over the NFHS Network’s subscriber-based platform and live on the AHSAA TV Network.

All 14 state championship games will be aired live over the Alabama Public Television Network and live streamed over the NFHS Network.

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