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Tigers punch ticket for Area title game

By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
One person will look at a glass as half full. Another will look at it as half empty.
The same analogy applies to Friday's 69-32 victory by the T.R. Miller Tigers over the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles in Friday's opening round of the Class 3A Area 1 Tournament played at Clarke County.
From the T.R. Miller standpoint, things could not have gone any better. The Tigers hit their first 10 shots, 13 of their first 16 and 26 of 40 for the game for a robust 65 percent.
&#8220We executed about as well as we could have, especially at the start of the game. We'll definitely take that kind of shooting performance every time,” T.R. Miller coach Rob Atkinson said.
From W.S. Neal's viewpoint, things could not have gone any worse. The Blue Eagles missed their first 12 shots and 17 of their first 18. W.S. Neal hit just 11 of 52 attempts for the game (21 percent).
Friday's victory extended T.R. Miller's winning streak to nine games and marked the Tigers' fourth win over the Blue Eagles this season.
T.R. Miller (18-10) had a 10-0 lead in less than three minutes and an 18-0 advantage just over five minutes into the game. The Tigers got a pair of three-pointers from Brandon Andrews and two buckets each from Jordan Knight and Laine Lucas to spark that early surge.
Cecil Thomas broke both W.S. Neal's point drought with a pair of free throws with 2:41 left in the first quarter and its field goal dry spell with a bucket with 49 seconds left in the opening frame.
Both did little to stop the bleeding. Andrews buried his third three-pointer of the first quarter just before the frame ended to make it 26-4. The Tigers ran that advantage to 30-4 when it began the second period with field goals by Jordan Knight and Lucas.
After the disastrous start, W.S. Neal settled down and took six points off its deficit over the next eight minutes.
Three-pointers by Jonathan Alexander and Ronald Travis helped W.S. Neal cut the gap to 38-16 by halftime. The Blue Eagles then got a bucket by Sherman Sanders in the opening minute of the third quarter to cut the gap to 38-18.
Twenty points would be as close as W.S. Neal could get. The Tigers closed out the third quarter on an 11-0 run, a stretch that was capped off by back-to-back buckets by Kelly Stallworth that took the lead up to 52-20.
T.R. Miller's lead hit the 40-point mark when Teras Fountain scored with 2:35 left to make it 66-26. The biggest advantage came 12 seconds later when a charity toss by Terry Hetherington made it 67-26.
The win sends T.R. Miller into Monday's 7 p.m. championship game against top-seeded Clarke County. The Bulldogs (25-6) punched their ticket for the title game with a 65-49 win over Straughn. Clarke County owns two regular season wins over the Tigers with a 65-49 win at Grove Hill and a 55-48 win at Brewton.
Meanwhile W.S. Neal's season ended with a 9-18 record.
At Clarke County
W.S. Neal 4 12 4 12 – 32
T.R. Miller 26 12 14 17 – 69
W.S. NEAL (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Thomas 3-1-4-13; Madison 1-0-3-5; Ron. Travis 1-1-0-5; Sanders 2-0-0-4; Alexander 0-1-0-3; Barksdale 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 8-3-7-32)
T.R. MILLER (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Jo. Knight 6-0-7-19; Andrews 2-3-0-13; Brooks 2-1-4-11; Lucas 4-0-0-8; Stallworth 3-0-0-6; Fountain 2-0-0-4; Walker 1-0-1-3; Je. Knight 1-0-0-2; Curry 1-0-0-2; Hetherington 0-0-1-1 (Totals: 22-4-13-69)