Tigers clinch area title; continue winning streak
By By SCOTT COOPER – Sports Writer
With a 74-57 road win over the Clarke County Bulldogs on Jan. 17, the T.R. Miller Tigers claimed the Area-1 regular-season championship and stretched their winning streak to five games.
The Tigers, 14-4 on the season and 3-0 against area competition, entered the game needing a victory to assure their claim to the area title. After suffering from turnovers and falling behind early, the Tigers went on a second-quarter tear that vaulted them into a lead they maintained to the end.
The opening minutes of the game were a seesaw affair as the teams swapped baskets and attempted to get into a comfortable offensive rhythm. With Clarke County holding a 9-8 lead with 4:00 left in the first period, the hosts took advantage of three consecutive Miller turnovers to score the next six points and go up 15-8. The Tigers' Greg Bogan then drove the lane for a basket before Dominic Johnson's putback after grabbing a rebound made things closer at 15-12. The Bulldogs scored the next three points, but Neal Cheatham produced two points just before the horn sounded to pull Miller to within four, 18-14, entering the second quarter.
With Cheatham's 12 points coupled with Bogan's marksmanship from 3-point range leading the way, the Tigers completely dominated play in the second period.
Cheatham hit two free throws to begin the quarter and followed with a slam-dunk that tied the game at 18-18. Bogan then hit consecutive 3-pointers that put the Tigers out front, 24-18. After a Bulldogs' basket reduced the lead to 24-20 with 5:45 remaining in the half, the Tigers went on a 14-4 tear before the break. When the second-period dust had settled, Miller had turned a 4-point opening-quarter deficit into a 38-24 halftime advantage.
The third period was played at a torrid pace. Both teams answered the other's rally with one of their own as the back-and-forth action increased in intensity.
The Bulldogs went wild on the offensive end to begin the quarter, outscoring Miller 13-5 to cut the lead down to 43-37 with 3:40 seconds remaining.
At that point, the Tigers dug deep and answered with a rally of their own. Ryheem Drakeford scored consecutive baskets before Bogan launched three straight 3-point shots that found the mark in a 13-3 Miller run that placed them firmly back in control at 56-39. The Bulldogs, however, showed no quit by scoring the quarter's last six points that reduced the Tigers' lead to 10, 56-46, heading to the last quarter.
Miller remained in control over the course of the final period, as a total team defensive effort prevented the Bulldogs from making a serious move toward the lead. With DaWaun Johnson, Dominic Johnson, Cheatham and Drakeford dictating play underneath, the Tigers outscored Clarke County 18-11 in the quarter to put the finishing touches on a 17-point win.
Leading the Tigers' offense were Neal Cheatham, 22 points; Greg Bogan, 20 points; Ryheem Drakeford, 12 points and Dominic Johnson, 12 points.