Abbeville makes TRM settle for second best
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
By BRUCE HIXON
Funny how life works.
All season long the T.R. Miller Lady Tigers relied on their pressure defense for turnovers and points.
It was the same strategy that went against T.R. Miller and carried the Abbeville Lady Yellow Jackets to a 40-33 in Friday's Class 3A state championship game held at the Birmingham Civic Center.
With the contest tied at 14-14 at half-time, Abbeville coach Darryl Brooks switched defenses.
"We had tried to full-court press T.R. Miller in the first half and didn't have a lot of luck with it. Then we decided to go to a half-court press in the second half. That was something we had worked on in practice a few times, but hadn't used it in a game much," Brooks said.
It turned out to be the key move of the game. T.R. Miller committed eight turnovers and Abbeville responded with a 12-2 run to take the lead for good.
"We're a young team. I don't think people realize just how young we are with just one senior (Ashley Samuel) and just one junior (Keonshaye Lane). We didn't attack that half-court press like we needed to do," T.R. Miller coach Ron Jackson said.
It was not just Abbeville's half-court press that gave the Lady Tigers (29-3) fits. It was their whole defensive plan. T.R. Miller hit just 13 of 60 shots (22 percent) for the game.
In both Friday's game and Wednesday's semifinal win over DAR, T.R. Miller had just three players score (Joy McCorvey, Samuel and Jasmine Sanford).
"We felt that was a weakness we could exploit. We thought we could load up our defense against Samuel and McCorvey and try to make their other players beat us," Brooks said.
T.R. Miller's offensive problems started right off the bat. The Lady Tigers hit just one of 10 first quarter shots and one of their first 16 attempts overall.
Abbeville (27-4) also found it tough to score. The Lady Yellow Jackets missed eight of their first nine shots to start the game.
A basket by Abbeville's Robin Porter and a hoop by McCorvey were the only points either team scored for the first seven minutes.
In the final minute of the rame, the Lady Yellow Jackets got hoops by April Spann and Krystal Hulls to move in front 6-2.
A couple of buckets by McCorvey in the first minute of the second quarter brought the Lady Tigers even at 6-6. Over the next four minutes Abbeville used a pair of field goals by Zsaques Flucker and hoops by Porter and Spann to move in front 14-8.
T.R. Miller seemed to right its ship in the final couple of minutes in the first half. Sanford scored off an assist from Samuel, Samuel drove the legth of the floor for another score and McCorvey scored from inside to tie the game at 14-14 headed into half-time.
The Lady Tigers opened the second half of play with a basket by Sanford to move in front 16-14. After a brief deadlock at 16-16, Sanford then hit two more free throws to put T.R. Miller back in front 18-16. Those were the only leads the Lady Tigers had in the game.
Then the turnovers started to hit. So did 10 consecutive points by Abbeville that put the Lady Yellow Jackets up 26-18.
There appeared to be a key turning point in T.R. Miller's favor late in the third quarter.
Wth Abbeville up 26-18, the Lady Yellow Jackets got a turnovers and a fastbreak layup opportunity. Hulls missed that layup which would have put Abbeville up 10 points.
Instead moments later Sanford scored, was fouled and converted the three-point play opportunity to cut the lead down to 26-21 headed into the fourth quarter.
T.R. Miller got another three-point play early in the final quarter, this one by McCorvey. That cut the Lady Yellow Jackets' lead to just 26-24.
Two free throws by McCorvey with 6:55 left chopped the gap to a mere point at 27-26, but T.R. Miller would not get over the hump.
Hulls hit back-to-back baskets and Porter hit two free throws to put Abbeville back in front by a more comfortable 33-26 margin.
Abbeville still had a six-point edge of 36-30 headed into the final minute. A three-pointer by Samuel with 49 seconds left cut that lead in half at 36-33.
McCorvey then came up with a steal, but the Lady Tigers missed two shots from in close that would have cut the lead back to just one point.
A basket by Kim Johnson with 28 second left made it a two-possession ead of 38-33. Two free throws by Porter 10 seconds later all but wrapped it up.
"We were hoping we would be able to get a lead and then go to our spread offense, but we just couldn't get it," Jackson said. "We bounced back from our loss to Selma at the Greenville Tournament. We bounced back from our loss to Pensacola. We'll bounce back from this too. It hurts now, but these girls have had a tremendous year."
T.R. Miller 2 12 7 12 – 33
Abbeville 6 8 12 14 – 40
T.R. MILLER (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) McCorvey 5-0-3-13; Samuel 4-1-0-11; Sanford 3-0-3-9 (Totals: 12-1-6-33)
ABBEVILLE (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Porter 6-0-4-16; Hulls 4-0-1-9; Spann 4-0-0-8; Johnson 2-0-1-5; Flucker 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 17-0-6-40)