Shields rallies from 14 down to snatch crown from TRM

Published 1:44 am Wednesday, January 3, 2007

By BY BRUCE HIXON – sports editor
There is a reason why the J.F. Shields Panthers have won Class 1A state championships in two of the past three seasons and been to the state's Final Four in each of the last three seasons.
There is also a reason why J.F. Shields is the 2006 Bank of Brewton Christmas Tournament champion. The Panthers, currently ranked number one in the state in Class 1A, posted their third fourth quarter comeback in as many games and then hung on in overtime to nip the host T.R. Miller Tigers 50-48 in Saturday's championship game.
It marked the fourth time in the five-year history of the tournament T.R. Miller lost in the championship game, but this was easily the most frustrating. The Tigers (6-3) led by as many as 14 points and by as many as 13 in the second half only to see J.F. Shields (14-1) storm back.
T.R. Miller led 35-24 three minutes into the second half, but scored just 13 more points over the final 17 minutes.
Missed free throws and turnovers down the stretch played a key role in T.R. Miller's downfall. The Tigers, who were only 10-for-21 from the free throw line for the game, were only six-for-13 in the second half and missed the front end of three one-and-ones. T.R. Miller had just seven turnovers through three quarters, but nine in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Outside of the first minute of the game when the Panthers led 3-2, T.R. Miller led the entire first half.
The Tigers used a pair of buckets from Kelly Stallworth and Brandon Andrews, a three-pointer by Wade Jackson and a field goal by Terrence Walker to take a 13-7 lead through the first quarter.
Stallworth, who scored 14 of his team-high 16 points in the first half, got 10 of those in the second period to help the Tigers push their lead into double digits.
It was a three-point play by Stallworth two minutes into the frame that gave T.R. Miller its first double-digit lead at 18-7. It was Stallworth's third basket of the quarter that gave the Tigers a 25-11 lead, their largest cushion of the game.
T.R. Miller, which led 29-19 at halftime, still had a double-digit lead of 35-24 three minutes into the second half when the momentum quickly shifted.
Thee-pointers by Mike Williams and Willie Nettles triggered a 12-1 run that was capped off by a three-point play by Steve Finklea that tied the game at 36-36.
The Tigers got a free throw and bucket by Terry Hetherington at the end of the third quarter to regain the lead and a bucket by Stallworth at the start of the fourth quarter to go back in front 41-36.
Stallworth's hoop was not only the last field goal for T.R. Miller for more than seven and a half minutes, it was its last points during that time span.
Despite the offensive drought, the Tigers were able to keep J.F. Shields in the rearview mirror until the Panthers tied the game at 41-41 on a free throw with 2:16 left.
J.F. Shields took a 42-41 lead on a free throw by Demetrius Finklea with 1:20 left and extended the gap to 44-41 on a fastbreak bucket by Williams with 42 seconds left.
Terrelle Brooks rescued the Tigers on both offense and defense in the final seconds. First, Brooks stepped up and buried an NBA-range three-pointer with three seconds left to tie the game at 42-42.
Brooks then came up big on defense when he blocked a shot attempt on a drive to the basket by Williams as regulation time expired.
The Tigers also had a couple of big plays on defense in overtime, but failed to capitalize on both.
Brooks came up with a steal in the first minute of overtime while the game was still tied, but T.R. Miller promptly gave the ball right back on a turnover. J.F. Shields, which built a 48-46 lead on the strength of an offensive rebound bucket and free throw by Williams, turned the ball over again with 1:05 left on a steal by Stallworth, but the Tigers came up short on a shot attempt by Hetherington with 26 ticks left that would have tied the game.
The Panthers secured their title when Jeffery Austin hit two free throws with six seconds left to make it a two-possession lead of 50-46.
The game was the last for T.R. Miller before it opens up Area play Thursday at home against Hillcrest-Evergreen. Play starts at 4:30 p.m. with the junior varsity game.
At T.R. Miller
J.F. Shields 7 12 17 8 6 - 50
T.R. Miller 13 16 10 5 4 – 48
J.F. SHIELDS (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Williams 4-2-1-15; S. Finklea 4-0-1-9; D. Finklea 2-0-3-7; Nettles 1-1-0-5; Austin 0-1-2-5; Dortch 2-0-1-5; Stallard 0-1-0-3; Bonner 0-0-1-1 (Totals: 13-5-9-50)
T.R. MILLER (2FG-3G-FT-TP) Stallworth 6-0-4-16; Walker 3-0-2-8; Jackson 1-1-2-7; Andrews 3-0-1-7; Hetherington 3-0-1-7; Brooks 0-1-0-3 (Totals: 16-2-10-48)