Except for a summertime change of plans, Kira Lewis might have been in Blount County this weekend, pouring in baskets against Appalachian High School and wearing a Hazel Green jersey.
Instead, the freshman guard at Alabama was scoring a career-high 21 points against Appalachian State and while there is tougher competition ahead, Lewis was clearly the spark in Alabama’s 81-73 win against the Mountaineers.
“There were lots of highs and lows in this game tonight,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. “We showed some signs of maturity. I’m not sure we would have won this game at this time last year.”
The Crimson Tide trailed by six points, 56-50, with 12 minutes to play but went on a 14-1 run over the next four minutes, a span that included two Lewis baskets, and took a 64-57 lead with 7:25. The Mountaineers were never able to bring the margin back to a one-possession game after that.
Lewis helped Alabama to an early lead with eight points in the first five minutes but Appalachian State rallied and the remainder of the half consisted of the two teams swapping runs and exchanging leads. The Crimson Tide closed with a 7-2 run, taking a 38-35 lead on John Petty’s 3-pointer with two seconds remaining before the halftime buzzer.
“Kira made some shots for us that gave us some momentum early on,” Johnson said. “He’s a young guy that’s still got a long, long way to go. It’s only November 11th. Give him time to grow.”
In addition to Lewis, Alabama had three other players in double figures: Petty with 13 points, Donta Hall with 12 (as well as 12 rebounds) and Herbert Jones, who scored 10 points despite struggling at times from the floor (2-of-11) and the foul line (6-of-16).
“Dazon Ingram also got a part of the game ball,” Johnson said. “He’s been through so much (with an ankle injury.) He wasn’t 100 percent tonight but I don’t know if we could have won the game without his eight rebounds and his defense.”
Ingram did not play in Alabama’s season opener against Southern University.
Isaac Johnson led Appalachian State with 22 points while Ronshad Shabazz added 21. The Mountaineers shot 60 percent (nine of 15) from the 3-point line but were stung by 22 turnovers that led to 26 Crimson Tide points.
Alabama (2-0) will play away from home for the first time this season on Thursday afternoon when it faces Northeastern in the opening round of the Charleston Classic in Charleston, S.C.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225