Late rally nets Lady Tigers Area title
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
One could hardly blame the T.R. Miller Lady Tigers for having flashbacks.
There was a big second half lead melting before their eyes. Leading scorer Joy McCorvey was saddled with foul trouble. Their offense suddenly struggled to score.
This time there was one notable difference between Saturday's Class 3A Area 1 Tournament championship game against Clarke County and that 43-38 overtime loss to Pensacola back in December. This time the Lady Tigers were able to right their ship and post a 49-44 victory.
Much like the Pensacola game where T.R. Miller blew a 19-point second half lead on its way to its only loss of the season, the Lady Tigers (27-1) watched a 15-point second half lead evaporate against Clarke County.
It was a shot by an unlikely hero that perhaps changed Saturday's outcome. With Clarke County up 44-41 with just under three minutes to go, junior Keya Peterson, who had not scored the entire game, drilled a three-pointer to tie the game.
T.R. Miller still had plenty of work left. McCorvey, who played the entire fourth quarter with four fouls, broke the deadlock with a hoop from inside the lane with 1:40 left.
McCorvey made it a 47-44 lead when she hit the first of two free throw attempts with 50 seconds to go and Sanford all but wrapped it up when her two charity tosses with 10 seconds left made it a two-possession lead of 49-44.
Down the stretch T.R. Miller's defense refused to cave in. On its last four possessions, the Lady Tigers forced Clarke County (21-6) into two turnovers, an air ball on a three-point attempt and another three-point attempt that bounced off
See LADY TIGERS Page 9A the left side of the rim.
Such a dramatic finish seemed highly unlikely in the first half. Instead it followed the similar pattern to the two regular season meetings between the teams where T.R. Miller, ranked fourth in the state, beat the Lady Bulldogs, ranked fifth in the state, by 18 and 17 points.
Three hoops, one of which was a three-point play, by McCorvey and two three-pointers by Lane, staked T.R. Miller to a 13-5 lead during the opening frame.
That advantage reached a first half high of 27-12 after a bucket by Lane five minutes into the second quarter and matched moments later when a field goal by Sanford made it 29-14.
T.R. Miller also took a 15-point lead of 33-18 10 seconds into the third quarter on two free throws by Sanford.
Suddenly the Lady Tigers' offense began to dry up. Four minutes expired before they scored again and they managed just a lone field goal by McCorvey during a nine-minute stretch.
Meanwhile Clarke County quickly went to work on that lead. A pair of field goals by Courtney Thomas and Erica Moore, a hoop and two free throws by Tiffany Johnson and a three-pointer by Audrie Denson shaved T.R. Miller's cushion all the way down to just 35-33 by the end of the third quarter.
Perhaps worse, McCorvey, who still had a team high 16 points, picked up her fourth foul with just under two minutes left in the quarter.
The rest of the Lady Tigers' cushion disappeared in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter when a basket by Johnson and two field goals by Moore suddenly moved the Lady Bulldogs in front 40-37.
It was still a three-point deficit with under three minutes left when Peterson's trey turned the tide in T.R. Miller's favor.
The Area Tournament championship sends the Lady Tigers into the sub-regional round and also keeps them at home where they will host Aliceville Thursday at 7 p.m. Aliceville is the runner-up from Area 6 after it fell to Sumter County 42-30 in that tournament championship game. The winner will advance to next Wednesday's Southwest Regional to be held at the University of South Alabama at Mobile where it will meet the Leeds-Northside winner at 9 a.m.
At T.R. Miller
Clarke County 7 11 15 11 – 44
T.R. Miller 13 18 4 14 – 49
CLARKE COUNTY (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Johnson 6-0-7-19; Thomas 5-0-1-11; Moore 3-0-3-9; Denson 0-1-0-3; Curtis 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 15-1-11-44)
T.R. MILLER (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) McCorvey 7-0-2-16; Sanford 5-0-5-15; Lane 1-3-0-11; Peterson 0-1-0-3; Smith 1-0-0-2; Watson 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 15-4-7-49)