One more win to get to the big dance

Published 9:10 am Monday, March 1, 2004

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
It is unusual for games to be decided by this large a margin during the postseason.
Then again the way the T.R. Miller Lady Tigers destroyed the Tarrant Lady Wildcats 67-29 in Wednesday's Class 3A Southwest Regional semifinal held at Mobile is the way they have won games all year.
"You certainly don't expect to win games like this at this stage of the season, but this is a group that has played well together all year," T.R. Miller coach Ron Jackson said. "A big plus for us is our players have been through this before. It's a plus anytime you can take that kind of experience into postseason."
Wednesday's victory moved T.R. Miller (27-2 and winners of 15 straight) to within one win of its third straight regional championship and state berth. The Lady Tigers have won seven regional crowns in the last nine years. T.R. Miller went after that state berth Saturday against Sumter County, which defeated Indian Springs 50-21. The state tournament opens up Wednesday at the Birmingham Civic Center. If T.R. Miller won Saturday, the Lady Tigers would play at 12 noon.
As Jackson mentioned, the Lady Tigers have plenty of postseason experience. At the same time they are still a young club with just one senior on its roster. However, that one senior, Ashley Samuel, put on quite a show Wednesday with a game high 32 points and 16 rebounds.
"I've got a good supporting cast so I don't feel like I have to carry the load by myself," Samuel said.
While it was not Samuel's intention, she did carry the load for the Lady Tigers. The 5-9 senior put the Lady Tigers in firm control early in the game, as she racked up 19 of her 32 points in the first half.
Samuel had eight of those points off four field goals in the first five minutes of the game when T.R. Miller stormed out to a 14-0 lead.
Joy McCorvey added a pair of hoops, while Jasmine Sanford also had a field goal in the early blitz.
It was not just the Lady Tigers' offense that stood out. On the defensive end, they forced Tarrant (16-5) to miss its first 11 shots. The Lady Wildcats also had seven of their 28 turnovers during that span.
"We didn't know they would turn the ball over like that. We started pressing and they started turning the ball over so we stayed with it," Jackson said.
It took just over five minutes for Tarrant to finally get on the scoreboard courtesy of a free throw by Sheba Giles. Another minute passed before the Lady Wildcats made their first shot, a field goal by Sherri Morris off an offensive rebound.
With T.R. Miller already up 16-3, the Lady Tigers closed out the first quarter with another strong stretch. Samuel hit a baseline jumper, McCorvey turned a steal into a layup, Keonshaye Lane scored off a rebound and so did Sanford. By the time the frame ended, T.R. Miller had a commanding 24-3 lead.
After Tarrant's Shankieta Brown began the second period with a basket, the Lady Tigers delivered another big punch courtesy of an 11-0 run.
Krystle Smith hit a jumper from the free throw line, Lane connected on two charity tosses and Samuel hit two buckets from inside and another from three-point land to make it a staggering 35-5 lead with nearly three minutes left in the half.
T.R. Miller's biggest lead of the first half came in the final minute when Samuel drove in for a score to make it 37-6.
After a nearly flawless first half that saw the Lady Tigers take a 37-8 lead into half-time, T.R. Miller was probably due to hit a few snags.
Those came early in the third quarter when the Lady Wildcats
got a pair of field goals from Sherri Morris, a bucket from Valisha Fincher and two free throw by Terri Morris to close the gap to 39-16.
While any realistic comeback hopes Tarrant had at that point were still faint at best, T.R. Miller probably shut the door for good with a 10-0 blitz over the next three minutes that swelled the gap to 49-16.
Samuel had three field goals in that span that ran her point total on the day to 27 at that stage. Lane and McCorvey also chipped in field goals.
About the only question left to be answered was what the final margin of victory would be.
The Lady Tigers had a 52-24 edge headed into the fourth quarter and added to it in the final quarter.
A fastbreak bucket by McCorvey with just over two minutes left gave T.R. Miller its biggest lead up to that point at 61-27. Two hoops by Samuel in the final minute extended that game high margin.
At Mobile
Tarrant 3 5 16 5 – 29
T.R. Miller 24 13 15 15 – 67
TARRANT (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) S. Morris 6-0-3-15; Berry 2-0-2-6; T. Morris 0-0-3-3; Giles 1-0-1-3; Fincher 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 10-0-9-29)
T.R. MILLER (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Samuel 14-1-1-32; McCorvey 6-0-0-12; Sanford 4-0-0-8; Smith 3-0-1-7; Lane 2-0-2-6; Herrington 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 30-1-4-67)

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