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T.R. Miller wins area; falls in subregional

By By SCOTT COOPER – Sports Writer
After claiming the Area-1 tournament championship with a decisive win over Clarke County on Feb. 11, the T.R. Miller Tigers were seeking one more victory that would place them in next week's Class 3A Southwest Regionals in Mobile. But, the Frances Marion Rams spoiled the Tigers' plans when the two teams met in Friday's sub-regional game. The Rams took advantage of Miller's cold shooting from the floor to secure a win that placed them in the regional tournament and ended Miller's season.
Although the loss was a bitter disappointment for the Tigers, their season remains a successful one ending with a 19-8 overall record.
T.R. Miller 52, Clarke Cty. 36
In the Feb. 11 Area-1 tournament finale at T.R. Miller High School, the Tigers jumped on top of the Clarke County Bulldogs from the opening tip and never were seriously threatened in a 52-36 win.
The Tigers opened the game dominating inside the paint on both ends of the court. Ryheem Drakeford opened the scoring with a couple of free throws for a 2-0 Miller lead before Greg Bogan fed Dominic Johnson underneath for another two points that upped the Tigers lead to 4-0. Following a free throw by DaWaun Johnson, a Neal Cheatham fast-break basket gave the Tigers a 7-0 advantage with 5:31 to go in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs cut the Miller lead down to 7-4 with consecutive baskets, but then DaWaun Johnson registered six more points before the end of the period to lead Miller on an 8-3 run that pushed the leading total to 15-7 entering the second stanza.
If there were any questions about the Tigers' control at the end of the opening period, they were put to rest with a 9-0 run to begin the second quarter. Dawaun Johnson began the offensive explosion with a basket underneath before Bogan's 3-pointer padded the cushion to 20-7. Cheatham and Kreij Bougard both were on mark with a couple of free throw attempts as Miller pushed the score to 24-7 with 4:17 left in the half. After the Bulldogs scored the game's next five points, two Drakeford 3-pointers coupled with a DaWaun Johnson jump shot allowed Miller to take a 32-14 lead into the halftime break.
In the opening minutes of the third quarter, baskets by Cheatham and DaWaun Johnson were coupled with a Drakeford 3-point shot that offset seven Clarke County points and maintained the Tigers' 18-point lead at 39-21. After a Bulldogs' basket reduced Miller's advantage to 39-23, the remainder of the period was accented by a combination of tough defensive play and missed scoring opportunities by both teams. Heading to the final eight minutes of the contest, the Tigers were in control with a 16-point lead.
Smelling the scent of a victory, the Tigers came onto the floor in the fourth quarter and opened their biggest lead of the game, 50-28, with just under three minutes remaining. A late 8-2 Clarke County run had no bearing on the outcome except to reduce Miller's winning total to 16 points.
Offensive leaders for the Tigers were Ryheem Drakeford, 13 points; Johnson, 13 points and Neal Cheatham, 10 points.
Frances Marion 63
T.R. Miller 41
The Tigers played hosts to the Frances Marion Rams in a Feb. 14 subregional contest that would decide which team would advance to next week's regional tournament in Mobile.
Frances Marion (23-7) entered the game possessing a decided size advantage that they used to control play underneath the basket. Although the Tigers scraped and clawed to stay within striking distance for three quarters, the Rams pulled away to a comfortable lead in the fourth period before closing out a 63-41 win that ended the Tigers' season.
After Frances Marion built an 8-0 lead with 4:33 to go in the opening quarter, a Dominic Johnson basket inside the paint was followed by four consecutive points from DaWaun Johnson that reduced the Miller deficit to two, 8-6. A Rams' bucket was then answered by DaWaun Johnson's two points and ended the first-quarter scoring with Frances Marion holding a 10-8 lead.
Frances Marion used a combination of their ability to dominate inside and an array of 3-pointers to pull away during second-quarter action. Going on an 8-0 run to begin the period, the Rams lead 18-8 before Greg Bogan's 3-pointer and DaWaun Johnson's drive to the hole made the score 18-13 with 3:08 left before intermission. Then, a 7-2 Rams' run over the closing minutes of the quarter allowed them to hold a 25-15 advantage at the halftime break.
After Frances Marion's fast start to the third quarter placed Miller behind by 16 points, 31-15, the Tigers rallied to cut the lead down to seven. Led by the offensive production of Cheatham and DaWaun Johnson, Miller outscored the Rams 10-1 over the next four minutes to pull closer at 32-25 with 2:05 to go in the period. But, Marion responded by scoring three unanswered points and held the lead by 10, 35-25, as the two teams headed to the final stanza.
Although the Tigers fought to mount a final-quarter comeback, the Rams showed they were in complete control of the contest. After stretching the lead to 41-26 with 4:55 left in the game, Frances Marion further padded the cushion to 50-39 with two minutes to go before ending with a convincing 22-point victory.
DaWaun Johnson led the Tigers with 14 points while Neal Cheatham followed closely behind with 10 points.