Late surge lifts Lady Tigers to win in opener
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
One game told a lot about the T.R. Miller Lady Tigers.
While Fort Walton Beach (Fla.) was able to expose some flaws in T.R. Miller's game, the Lady Tigers used several clutch fourth quarter plays to stun the Lady Vikings 51-49 in Thursday's opening round of the Emerald Coast Classic at Fort Walton Beach.
T.R. Miller trailed most of the game, which included a 28-19 halftime deficit, before it rallied for the win.
"Fort Walton Beach is a good team. They exposed some of our weaknesses. We had a lot of early turnovers and struggled to get our offense going. Some of that was first game jitters and some of that was them," T.R. Miller coach Ron Jackson said. "Our biggest adjustment in the second half was our offense. We went to a block offense where we started posting both Joy (McCorvey) and Jasmine (Sanford) on the block and we had a lot more success."
T.R. Miller was still down a point, 45-44, with 3:57 left when a key sequence of events turned the game in the Lady Tigers' favor.
Jasmine Sanford had the ball and was fouled on her way to the basket. With T.R. Miller already in the super bonus, Sanford was assured of her two free throws. However, the Lady Tigers got two more charity tosses when a technical foul was called on the Fort Walton Beach bench.
Sanford hit her two foul shots that first tied the game and then put T.R. Miller up 45-44. Keonshaye Lane then hit one of the two technical foul shots that extended the lead to 46-44.
Now ahead, the Lady Tigers went to a spread offense where they milked more than a minute off the clock before Sanford scored on an assist from McCorvey that completed a five-point possession and took the lead to 48-44.
"Without a doubt that was probably the key part of the game," Jackson said. "We struggled at the free throw line for the game (15-for-31), but we hit three big ones in that possession."
Once ahead, T.R. Miller had a tough time closing things out. The Lady Tigers had a turnover, two free throws by McCorvey and an ill-advised shot attempt over their next three possessions that left the door open for Fort Walton Beach to pull within 50-49.
The forced missed shot attempt with 15 seconds ago allowed the Lady Vikings to set up a potential go-ahead and winning shot with just under 10 seconds to go. That threat ended when Sanford intercepted a pass from Keisha Forbes on the right wing.
Sanford was immediately fouled with :05.7 and hit the second of two free throw attempts to make it a 51-49 lead.
The Lady Vikings still had time to set up a quick shot. Forbes got the shot off probably too quickly, as she fired up a half-court attempt with about three seconds still left that fell way short of the target.
T.R. Miller's offense was sluggish early on, as it committed 10 first half turnovers.
That was not the case for McCorvey, as the 6-0 junior center scored the Lady Tigers first eight points in the first quarter. McCorvey led all scorers with 21 points for the game.
Forbes matched those eight points with eight of her own in the first quarter. Her last two in the waning moments of the first frame tied thing up at 11-11.
A hoop by Lane midway through the second quarter tied the score again at 17-17 before the Lady Vikings went on an 11-0 run that put them in front by a game high margin of 28-17.
Sanford helped bring the Lady Tigers back in the third quarter, as she had a steal, two field goals and three free throws that helped narrow Fort Walton Beach's lead to 38-34.
Keya Peterson had just three points, but those three came on a trey with just over five minutes left in the game that brought T.R. Miller within 42-41.
The Lady Tigers were unable to get over that hump until the big five-point possession a few moments later.
T.R. Miller played Pensacola (Fla.) in Friday's semifinal round. A recap of that game and Saturday's tournament finale will be in Wednesday's issue. The Lady Tigers' next game is Tuesday at Escambia County.
At Fort Walton Beach
FW Beach 11 17 10 11 – 49
T.R. Miller 11 8 15 17 – 51
FORT WALTON BEACH (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Forbes 9-0-2-20; Belton 2-2-3-13; Hansford 2-0-0-4; Milton 1-0-2-4; Richardson 2-0-0-4; Morales 1-0-0-2; Biles 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 18-2-7-49)
T.R. MILLER (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) McCorvey 7-1-4-21; Lane 5-0-4-14; Sanford 3-0-7-13; Peterson 0-1-0-3 (Totals: 15-2-15-51)