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Lady Tigers take area; cruise into regionals

By By SCOTT COOPER – Sports Writer
With their performances this past week in both the area and sub-regional tournaments, the T.R. Miller Lady Tigers earned a trip to the Southwest Regionals and served notice that they are serious about maintaining possession of their state championship crown.
The Lady Tigers notched an impressive win in the Class 3A Area-1 finals on Feb. 11 before securing a spot in the regional tournament with a victory in the sub-regionals on Thursday. In doing so, they raised their season record to 22-4.
Next on the agenda will be a Feb. 19 game in the Southwest Regionals in Mobile. Game time is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Mitchell Center on the campus of the University of South Alabama.
T.R. Miller 60
Clarke County 29
In Tuesday's Area-1 championship game against the Clarke County Babes held at T.R. Miller High School, the Lady Tigers took control from the start and dominated the entire contest.
Although Clarke County began the game playing a hard-nosed brand of defense, Miller's relentless pressure defense and athleticism over the length of the floor began wearing on the Babes midway through the opening quarter.
After a scoreless first two minutes, Akia Suarez scored a bucket on a putback and Joy McCorvey took it the length of the floor following a steal for a 4-0 Miller lead. An Ashley Samuel drive to the hole for two points padded the cushion to 6-0 before Clarke County got on the scoreboard and made the score 6-2 with 2:08 left in the period. The Lady Tigers then embarked on an 8-0 quarter ending run, as Suarez, McCorvey, Samuel and Brittnee Malloyd each recorded baskets that pushed the leading margin to 14-2.
In the second quarter, the Lady Tigers contested each Clarke County shot and ran the floor with every opportunity as they systematically built a comfortable lead.
The Babes cut into Miller's advantage early in the quarter by going on a 4-2 run that reduced the margin to 10, 16-6. However, the Lady Tigers promptly shifted into overdrive and proceeded on a 16-0 run before intermission. Samuel scored four straight points before an Asher Moore basket made the score 22-6 with 4:24 remaining in the half. Eight more points from Samuel coupled with two from Malloyd accounted for Miller's overwhelming 32-6 lead at the break.
The Babes regrouped at halftime and performed at a more consistent level with the Lady Tigers in the third period. But, the ever-present, suffocating play of the Miller defense coupled with the offensive production of Samuel and Malloyd enabled the Lady Tigers' to win the quarter, 13-11, and enter the final stanza holding an insurmountable 45-17 advantage.
With such a big cushion after three quarters, the Lady Tigers simply waltzed through the final eight minutes to victory. The lead was stretched to 34 points, 56-22, at the halfway point of the period before the Lady Tigers put the finishing touches on a 60-29 win that secured the area title and a place in the sub-regional tournament.
Ashley Samuel and Joy McCorvey led the Lady Tiger offense with 25 and 14 points, respectively.
T.R. Miller 43
Sumter County 31
The Lady Tigers' next step in their title-seeking journey was a Feb. 13 sub-regional matchup against the Sumter County Lady Wildcats at T.R. Miller.
Sumter County (17-5) entered the game with the reputation of a high-scoring team, but the Lady Tigers showed their defense is capable of shutting down the offensive production of any team in the playoffs.
After four points from Joy McCorvey to begin the game, Ashley Samuel picked the pocket of a Sumter County ball handler and raced the length of the floor for two points that gave Miller a 6-0 lead. The Lady Wildcats cut the lead down to 8-4, but then a Brittnee Malloyd transition basket was followed by buckets from Samuel and Akia Suarez that upped Miller's advantage to 14-4. As the opening-quarter seconds ticked down, a couple of Sumter County free throws made the period-ending score stand at 14-6.
With a 6-0 run to start the second quarter, the Lady Tigers sent a message that they intended to continue applying heat to their opponent. Malloyd got things going with a jump shot before baskets by Malloyd and Samuel pushed the Miller advantage to 20-6. After Sumter County rallied to cut the lead down to 20-10, Malloyd's short jumper at the buzzer gave the Lady Tigers a 22-10 cushion as the teams headed to intermission.
In a third quarter accented by tough defensive play from both squads, Miller held a slight edge. With McCorvey, Samuel and Malloyd accounting for the Lady Tigers' offensive production, Miller outscored the Lady Wildcats 8-7 to take a 30-17 lead into the final period.
The Lady Tigers went on a 10-4 fourth-quarter run in building their biggest lead of the game, 40-21, with just over two minutes remaining. Although Sumter County mounted a bit of a rally in the closing minute, it had little affect on the outcome as the Lady Tigers exited with a 43-31 win that earned them a spot in the regionals.
Offensive leaders for the Lady Tigers were Ashley Samuel, 16 points; Joy McCorvey, 14 points and Brittnee Malloyd, nine points.