Tigers bounce back from rough tournament opener
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
T.R. Miller Tigers coach Rob Atkinson said after Thursday's loss to Escambia County he needed for somebody on his team to step up.
He got something even better. His entire team stepped up, as it downed the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles 62-43 in Friday's second round at the Escambia County Tournament held at East Brewton.
"We played a lot better, but we still need to play better," Atkinson said.
T.R. Miller did have individual players step up, namely 6-0 senior Greg Bogan, who clipped the nets for six three-pointers and 29 total points.
"Greg shot the ball real well, but right now we're depending on him too much to carry the load for us. We need for some of the others to take some of the pressure off him on a consistent basis," Atkinson said.
In addition to Bogan's hot hand, other things contributed to T.R. Miller's victory. For the first 12 minutes, W.S. Neal had a commanding 14-5 edge on the boards. From that point on the teams played on even terms in that area. The Tigers' defense also forced the Blue Eagles into 22 turnovers.
Bogan started the game red hot, as he buried a pair of three-pointers and three other field goals in the first quarter.
That production helped T.R. Miller (3-1) build as much as a 13-6 lead in the opening frame, but W.S. Neal (0-4) battled back and pulled even at 15-15 on an offensive rebound basket by Chris Johnson with a minute left in the quarter.
The Tigers quickly reclaimed the lead on a jumper from the wing by Damien Jackson and extended that advantage to 20-15 on Kreij Bougard's three-pointer at the buzzer. T.R. Miller would not be caught again the rest of the game.
T.R. Miller's cushion reached a first half high of nine points on two occasions in the second quarter, the last came when Laine Lucas' field goal made it 33-24 with a minute left in the half.
A trey by Jeremy Burch and a basket by Cory Freeman in the final minute helped W.S. Neal trim that gap to just 33-29 by half-time.
The Tigers' defense would stiffen considerably in the second half, as W.S. Neal hit just four of 16 shots and committed 10 turnovers.
A pair of three-pointers and a two-pointer by Bogan helped T.R. Miller open up a 46-34 lead in the third quarter. T.R. Miller's lead would stay in double figures the rest of the way.
W.S. Neal was still within reasonable striking distance when two free throws by Burch had W.S. Neal within 52-40 with four minutes left.
At that point Bogan delivered the knockout blow with eight straight points to swell T.R. Miller's lead to a game high margin of 60-40.
Despite the loss, W.S. Neal coach Tom Lawler felt his team played its best game of the season.
"We were competitive for three quarters and our intensity was much better. Some of that may have had something to do with the rivalry, but at least it was there. It was encouraging for us to play that way without Marcus Folmar, (gone on a recruiting trip) who is probably our top playmaker," Lawler said.
T.R. Miller (1-1) in the tournament, closed out the tournament Saturday against Flomaton. W.S. Neal (0-2 in the tournament) finished up against Escambia County.
At W.S. Neal
W.S. Neal 15 14 7 7 – 43
T.R. Miller 20 13 13 16 – 62
W.S. NEAL (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Burch 1-2-1-9; Hulley 1-2-0-8; Freeman 3-0-2-8; Powell 2-1-1-8; Johnson 3-0-0-6; Alexander 2-0-0-4 (Totals: 12-5-4-43)
T.R. MLLER (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Bogan 5-6-1-29; Bougard 2-1-4-11; D. Jackson 3-0-2-8; Paul 1-0-3-5; Lucas 2-0-1-5; Walker 1-0-0-2; Lane 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 15-7-11-62)