Tigers grab share of Area 1 crown
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
That gush of wind that blew through East Brewton Tuesday was not a weather front. It was a big sigh of relief from the T.R. Miller Tigers.
The Tigers survived what was probably the best performance of the season by the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles to post a 45-36 victory.
The win enabled T.R. Miller (10-9 overall and 3-1 in Area 1) to grab a share of the Class 3A Area 1 regular season crown with Clarke County. Thanks to a successful outcome in a coin toss tiebreaker with the Bulldogs, the Tigers will get to host the Area 1 Tournament next month.
"It's a big win for us because of the Area implications," T.R. Miller coach Rob Atkinson said. "Besides that it was our third straight win and that is the first time we've done that this season. It gets us back above the .500 mark for the season."
W.S. Neal (0-15 overall and 0-4 in Area 1) threatened to spoil all that for the Tigers. The Blue Eagles took a lead into the second half for just the second time this season and gave T.R. Miller all it wanted for 32 minutes.
"At least from an effort standpoint, it was our best performance of the season," W.S. Neal coach Tom Lawler said. "If we can play like that, I think we've got a chance to advance from the Area Tournament although some people may think I'm crazy to say that when we haven't won a game."
Shooting and turnovers have plagued the Blue Eagles for most of the season, but W.S. Neal was able to keep those areas in check in the first half. The Blue Eagles, who have not shot 30 percent in a game since before Christmas, were at least at a respectable 38 percent in the first half with seven turnovers.
In the second half, that shooting mark dropped to 28 percent and the turnovers increased to nine. The significant item about those turnovers was eight of them occurred in the third quarter when T.R. Miller made its move.
"Give (W.S.) Neal credit. They came out with a good scheme and their kids played really hard," Atkinson said. "We just got after it a lot harder in the second half on defense, especially the third quarter."
With the exception of W.S. Neal's 5-0 lead to start the game, no more than three points separated the teams in the first half.
Three hoops by Alphonso Gross helped the Blue Eagles take an early first quarter lead, but a three-point play and three-pointer by Damien Jackson helped the Tigers force a 10-10 tie by the end of the period.
A three-point play by Trey Paul gave T.R. Miller a three-point lead of 13-10 lead early in the second quarter, but a basket by Marcus Folmar did the same thing for the Blue Eagles midway through the frame.
Folmar scored again with a minute left in the second quarter to give W.S. Neal the 20-18 lead it would take into half-time.
A string of turnovers would prove to be the Blue Eagles' downfall in the third quarter. Down 23-22, T.R. Miller turned those turnovers into a 15-2 run and a 37-25 lead by the end of the quarter. Jackson had a key three-point play off a fastbreak, Greg Bogan drained a pair of three-pointers and Trey Paul converted a couple of steals into buckets inside during that surge.
"We didn't handle their press very well that quarter and we lost some of our composure," Lawler said.
A three-pointer by Folmar got W.S. Neal as close as 37-30 with 4:26 left, but the Blue Eagles would get no closer
At W.S. Neal
T.R. Miller 10 8 19 8 – 45
W.S. Neal 10 10 5 11 – 36
T.R. MILLER (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) D. Jackson 3-1-2-11; Bogan 0-2-3-9; Walker 3-0-2-8; Paul 3-0-1-7; Bougard 2-0-0-4; Lucas 2-0-0-4; Banton 0-0-2-2 (Totals: 13-3-10-45)
W.S. NEAL (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Folmar 3-1-2-11; Gross 4-0-1-9; Burch 3-0-0-6; Alexander 2-0-2-6; Freeman 2-0-0-4 (Totals: 14-1-5-36)
T.R. Miller posted its third win of the season over the Northview (Fla.) Chiefs Friday, but the 51-45 triumph in the Sunshine State came much harder than expected.
The Tigers had beaten Northview 58-29 and 51-32 in their two previous meetings. Besides that Northview (3-15) came into the game with six straight losses and had not won since a victory over W.S. Neal at the T.R. Miller Tournament.
A much different Chiefs squad greeted the Tigers Friday, as Northview raced out to an 18-6 lead in the first quarter.
Kreij Bougard and Damien Jackson gave the Tigers (11-9) the spark they needed to come back.
Bougard ended the first quarter with a steal and layup. He then added a pair of buckets and two free throws in the first four minutes of the second period that trimmed the Chiefs' lead down to 22-18.
Meanwhile Jackson clipped the nets for 13 points in the first half on his way to a season high 17. That included a trio of three-pointers in the second quarter. The last of those came with three seconds left in the first half and gave T.R. Miller a 29-26 half-time edge.
Jackson hit his fourth trey in the third quarter. Greg Bogan also had a three-pointer and another key bucket that kept the Tigers ahead by a slim 39-38 margin headed into the fourth quarter.
Due to a growing foul problem and a thin bench, T.R. Miller coach Rob Atkinson went to a spread offense in the fourth quarter.
Three buckets by Bogan and two free throws by Bougard and Chris Byrd in the final frame helped send the Tigers to their fourth straight win.
"Give Northview credit. Their kids played hard and they made some big shots," Atkinson said. "Damien played super. He really saved us. It took Greg a while to get going, but he had several big buckets for us in the second half," Atkinson said.
The Tigers, who hosted Jay (Fa.) Saturday, visit Escambia County Tuesday.
T.R. Miller 10 19 10 12 – 51
Northview 18 8 12 7 – 45
T.R. MILLER (2FG-3FG-FT-TP)
See TIGERS Page 7
D. Jackson 2-4-1-17; Bogan 5-1-1-14; Bougard 3-0-4-10; Paul 1-0-3-5; Byrd 0-0-3-3; Lucas 0-0-2-2 (Totals: 11-5-14-51)
NORTHVIEW (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Whatley 4-0-3-11; Maughen 3-0-4-10; Allen 1-1-5-10; Eubanks 2-0-3-7; Brown 1-1-0-5; Ronnie 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 12-2-15-45)