Tigers dominate Jay in Invitational opener
By By SCOTT COOPER – Sports Editor
The T.R. Miller Tigers raced out to a comfortable halftime lead against the Jay Royals in the Jan. 2 opening round of the Miller Invitational and cruised from there to a decisive 74-58 win.
While raising their season record to 8-3, the Tigers took control of the game early by using their athleticism and ability to create offensive opportunities with defensive pressure. Although Jay battled hard to the end, Miller simply had too much firepower and earned the opportunity through the winner's bracket to face archrival W.S. Neal in the tournament's second round on Friday.
The Tigers began the game forcing the issue. By utilizing a trapping defense that caused ball-handling and passing problems for the Royals, Miller was able to gradually assert its dominance as the game wore on.
Jay scored an early basket for a 2-0 lead, but the Tigers responded with baskets by Ryheem Drakeford, Dominic Johnson and DaWaun Johnson to hold a 6-2 advantage two minutes into the opening period. With Dominic Johnson carrying most of the offensive load over the next several minutes, Miller opened a 17-11 lead with just under a minute left. A Jay basket that beat the buzzer reduced the Tiger lead to 17-13 as the teams headed to the second quarter.
Miller's quickness and defensive pressure began to seriously disrupt Jay's offensive flow in the second stanza. Following 3-pointers by Drakeford and Greg Bogan coupled with a 2-point jumper by Trey Paul that gave the Tigers a 25-14 lead, a series of defensive steals enabled Miller to pad the cushion even further.
Manufacturing points off steals by Bogan, DaWaun Johnson and Neal Cheatham, the Tigers continued to pull away as the quarter wore on and led, 37-24, at the halftime break.
More of the same occurred as the teams continued play in the third quarter. Taking advantage of the ability to take away Jay's offensive passing lanes along with their advantage on the boards, the Tigers turned-up the heat even higher as the period progressed.
Two 3-pointers by Bogan along with consistent offensive production from Dominic Johnson, DaWaun Johnson and Cheatham added up to a 58-37 Miller lead heading to the final quarter.
Although not able to match-up physically with the Tigers, the Royals' fourth-quarter performance proved they intended to play hard to the end. Although Miller's lead remained at a comfortable level, Jay rallied in the closing minutes to reduce the Tigers' winning margin to 16 points.
Offensive leaders for Miller were Neal Cheatham, 17 points; Ryheem Drakeford, 16 points; Greg Bogan, 14 points; Dominic Johnson, 12 points and DaWaun Johnson, 9 points.