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How Sweet (16) it is for Lady Tigers

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
One of life's biggest highlights for a girl is her Sweet 16 party.
Members of the T.R. Miller Lady Tigers earned their version of a Sweet 16 party Friday when they fought off a pesky Francis Marion Lady Rams squad 51-29 in a Class 3A Sub-Regional game held at T.R. Miller.
The win means T.R. Miller is just one of 16 schools left in Class 3A. It also means a berth in Wednesday's Southwest Regional semfiinal round to be held at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. The Lady Tigers (26-2 and winners of 14 straight) will take on Tarrant at 12 noon. Tarrant earned its regional berth with a 51-46 win over Leeds.
"We really don't know much about Tarrant yet at this time. They're ranked 10th in the state so we know they have a good team, but at this point everybody you play is going to be good," T.R. Miller coach Ron Jackson said. "Our focus last week was Francis Marion. If we didn't win that game, it didn't matter who came out of the next bracket. At this point of the season, it's all about survival."
While the Lady Tigers led all but a few seconds of Friday's game against Francis Marion (13-12), they were unable to breathe easily until deep into the fourth quarter.
"Francis Marion did a good job of handling our pressure defense. They kept their turnovers down for the most part and they were able to get some shots inside against us. Our support defense will need to get better for the next round," Jackson said.
Sophomore Joy McCorvey helped T.R. Miller move into the driver's seat with a strong first quarter. McCorvey had four field goals in the frame and tallied nine of T.R. Miller's first 15 points. McCorvey also came up with three steals on defense in the first quarter.
McCorvey's third field goal of the period gave the Lady Tigers a 13-4 lead, but the Lady Rams responded with a three-pointer by Jamie Morton and two free throws by Qwenisha Arrington to pull within 13-9.
Another McCorvey field goal and a baseline jumper by Ashley Samuel just before the first quarter horn sounded got the T.R. Miller lead up to 17-9.
The Lady Tigers' defense held Francis Marion to one lone field goal for the first five minutes of the second period, but T.R. Miller failed to take full advantage of the situation. The home team did get a fastbreak bucket by Keonshaye Lane and a hoop from the wing by Samuel that got the lead back into double digits at 21-11. It was also a 10-point lead which T.R. Miller took into half-time at 26-16.
Francis Marion made several charges at the Lady Tigers in the third quarter. Hoops by Kriston Liscomb and Angelica Trimble at the start of the third quarter reduced the Lady Tigers' cushion to just 26-20. The Lady Rams also pulled within six points at 28-22 and again at 30-24.
The final two minutes of the third quarter probably changed the complexion of the game. McCorvey came up with a field goal and then a steal that led to a layup by Samuel that made it 34-24.
T.R. Miller got the ball back with just under a minute to go in the quarter and ran the clock down for the last shot. Lane, who had just one field goal up to that point, drained a three-pointer at the buzzer that made it 37-24.
"Lane's three-pointer was probably the biggest shot of the game. It gave us a little bit of breathing room. That was the shot we wanted in that situation. We knew we were going to get the ball back at the start of the fourth quarter. Why not go for the homerun and take a three-pointer. If you make it, it's a big momentum boost. If not, you get the ball right back at the start of the next quarter," Jackson said.
T.R. Miller followed Lane's big three-pointer with a basket by Krystle Smith on a backdoor pass from Jasmine Sanford at the start of the fourth quarter that made the lead a more comfortable margin of 39-24.
While T.R. Miller tried to milk some clock, a couple of turnovers led to a pair of buckets on the other end that sliced the lead to 39-28 with better than four minutes still left. Those would be the last field goals Francis Marion would make in the game.
A fastbreak bucket by Sanford and three free throws by Samuel over the next two minutes knocked the lead up to 44-28 with two minutes left.
After a charity toss by Liscomb, T.R. Miller closed out the game on a 7-0 stretch with four free throws by Samuel, an offensive rebound hoop by McCorvey and a charity toss by lane to ensure the trip to Mobile.
At T.R. Miller
Francis Marion 9 7 8 5 – 29
T.R. Miller 17 9 11 14 – 51
FRANCIS MARION (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Arrington 5-0-4-14; Trimble 2-0-1-5; Liscomb 2-0-0-4; Nevels 0-1-0-3; Morton 0-1-0-3 (Totals: 9-2-5-29)
T.R. MILLER (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) McCorvey 9-0-1-19; Samuel 5-0-8-18; Sanford 3-0-0-6; Lane 1-1-1-6; Smith 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 19-1-10-51)