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No stars, no problem in Tigers victory

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Having a superstar may make a team a more glamorous attraction, but having a more balanced attack may make a team better in the long run.
Balance has been the name of the game all season for the T.R. Miller Tigers and that was evident again in Monday's 64-33 triumph over the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles in the opening round of the T.R. Miller Holiday Tournament.
It was the Tigers' second win of the season over their arch rival. T.R. Miller earlier posted a 54-22 win over the Blue Eagles at the Escambia County Tournament.
"You never want to lose in the opening round of your own tournament. Obviously this was a big one to get behind us," T.R. Miller coach Rob Atkinson said.
Four Tigers cracked double digits Monday led by Wade Jackson's 15 points. Tye Walker came up with 13, Gerald Banton had 12 and Damien Jackson netted 10.
"I'm glad we don't have a superstar on this team. When you rely on one player, you tend to go as he goes. With this team, somebody different steps up every night," Atkinson said.
While balance was a big part of T.R. Miller's win, so was its 15-0 run to start the game. W.S. Neal (2-9) did not score its first point until the final minute of the first quarter and did not make its first field goal until a minute into the second period.
"T.R. Miller is a very aggressive team. That is probably the thing that sticks out the most with me about them. If you don't have some success early on against them, they get after
you that much harder," W.S. Neal coach David McCollum said.
The Blue Eagles' early offensive woes were not from a lack of opportunities. W.S. Neal had six offensive rebounds, but missed all 13 of its shots in the first quarter.
"We did hit the boards well and got a lot of second and third cracks at the basket. Although we didn't finish things off, at least our rebounding is a positive we can build on," McCollum said.
The four Tigers who reached double digits for the game were the same ones who strung together the 15-0 run.
Walker had a bucket and two charity tosses, Damien Jackson drained a three-pointer, Wade Jackson scored from down low and Banton finished off the string with an offensive rebound basket and a pair of fastbreak hoops.
W.S. Neal's first point finally came with 51 seconds left in the first quarter when Cecil Thomas hit a free throw. B.J. McMillan gave the Blue Eagles their first field goal 49 seconds into the second quarter.
Despite the sluggish start, W.S. Neal did manage to settle down and hang with T.R. Miller (7-2) until late in the third quarter.
Led by a couple of buckets from McMillan and then a three-pointer by Terrell Sanders, W.S. Neal cut the gap to single digits when Spencer Williamson scored from down low with just over a minute left in the half to make it 21-12.
The Blue Eagles, who trailed 23-12 at halftime, moved within 23-15 when Ronald Travis buried a trey early in the third quarter.
While that would be as close as W.S. Neal would get, T.R. Miller's lead was still single digits with five minutes left in the third quarter and only 11 with less than two minutes left in the period.
With its lead at 34-23, T.R. Miller got a bucket from Walker and a three-pointer by Wade Jackson that bumped the lead up to 39-23 and gave the Tigers their biggest advantage of the game at that point.
If those two hoops at the end of the third quarter did not finish off the Blue Eagles, consecutive field goals at the start of the fourth quarter by Damien Jackson, Banton and Wade Jackson did. That ran the lead up to 45-23 and the Tigers added nine more points to that cushion the rest of the way.
"We hit a stretch where we relaxed a little bit after we got out to the 15-0 lead. W.S. Neal hit some shots and rebounded well to get back in the game, but then we managed to get back on track," Atkinson said.
The win sent T.R. Miller into Tuesday's championship semifinal against West Florida, a 55-47 winner over Flomaton. W.S. Neal fell into the consolation semifinal and took on Flomaton Tuesday.
The tournament wraps up today with the seventh place game at 3 p.m., the consolation championship game at 4:30 p.m., the third place game at 6 p.m. and the championship game at 7:30 p.m.
At T.R. Miller
T.R. Miller 15 8 16 25 – 64
W.S. Neal 1 11 11 10 – 33
T.R. MILLER (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) W. Jackson 5-1-2-15; Walker 4-0-5-13; Banton 6-0-0-12; D. Jackson 1-1-5-10; Brooks 2-0-2-6; Samuel 1-0-1-3; Arauz 0-1-0-3; Byrd 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 20-3-15-64)
W.S. NEAL (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) T. Sanders 0-3-0-9; Thomas 2-1-1-8; McMillan 3-0-0-6; Cooper 2-0-0-4; Ron. Travis 0-1-0-3; Williamson 1-0-0-2; Hester 0-0-1-1 (Totals: 8-5-2-33)