Tigers shut down Andalusia for first state berth since 1994
Published 8:14 am Monday, February 26, 2007
By BY BRUCE HIXON – sports editor
Its first win over Andalusia helped secure home-court advantage for the Area Tournament. Its second win produced an Area championship and home-court advantage for the sub-regional round.
It was T.R. Miller's third win over the Bulldogs this season that proved to be the biggest charm, as its 51-43 win in Saturday's Class 4A South Regional championship game at Troy University punched them a ticket for this week's state tournament.
The state berth is the first for the Tigers (19-6) since 1994, which was also the last time T.R. Miller had even won a regional game prior to its semifinal victory over Central-Coosa Wednesday.
As was the case in its two earlier wins against Andalusia, the big key for the Tigers was their defense against Andalusia leading scorer Nico Johnson. Johnson, who is averaging 20 points a game this season, was held to 12 and eight points in T.R. Miller's two previous wins, but erupted for 36 in Andalusia's regular season win over the Tigers. Johnson was held to 12 points Saturday and fouled out with 3:32 left after he picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in a span of 13 seconds.
It was not until the second half that more than two points separated the teams.
Three hoops by Johnson and two by Brandon Sims helped the Bulldogs take a 12-10 lead through one quarter.
A pair of field goals and a free throw by Wade Jackson and another field goal by Terrelle Brooks in the second quarter helped T.R. Miller take a 17-16 lead into the final minute of the first half.
Andalusia took its sixth and final lead of the first half with 19 seconds left when a bucket by DeAndre Wright gave the Bulldogs an 18-17 lead headed into halftime.
The Tigers made a 10-point swing in the first three and a half minutes of the second half to open up the first breathing room for either team.
Middleton converted a steal into a layup and hit a baseline jumper, Brandon Andrews buried the lone three-pointer for the Tigers and scored another bucket on a fastbreak, Jackson hit a free throw and Brooks drove in for another score to put the Tigers up 29-20.
T.R. Miller took its biggest lead of the game a minute later when a free throw by Brooks gave the Tigers a double-digit lead of 32-22.
That lead was cut in half by the time the third quarter ended, as a three-pointer and offensive rebound bucket by Leslie James and an offensive rebound bucket by Johnson trimmed the gap to 33-28.
Johnson scored on another put-back and Jeremy Ferrell added another field goal in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter that trimmed T.R. Miller's lead to just 33-32.
The rest of that lead disappeared moments later when Johnson scored again on an offensive rebound to tie the game at 34-34 with 5:30 left.
The Tigers, who outscored Andalusia 24-2 from the free throw line, got five of those charity tosses over the next two minutes to regain the lead, this time for good. Three of those tosses came from Jackson and two were delivered by Stallworth. The key play in the 7-0 run that gave T.R. Miller a 41-34 lead came in the middle when Middleton turned a steal into a layup.
Even with Johnson out, Andalusia still threatened to overhaul the Tigers. The Bulldogs pulled to within 43-41 with 1:15 left on a bucket by Ferrell and again to within two points when James scored on an offensive rebound with 34 seconds left to make it 45-43.
Two missed free throws by Brooks with 31 seconds left kept the door open for Andalusia, but Middleton promptly stole the ball from Wright after the second miss.
Middleton's steal led to a trip to the foul line by Stallworth and he widened the lead to 46-43 with 21 ticks left when he hit the first of two attempts. Stallworth missed the second shot, but a held ball occurred on the rebound and the possession arrow gave the Tigers the ball back.
Andalusia's last real chance faded with 16 seconds left when Ferrell was called for an intentional foul against Andrews. Andrews hit both foul shots to make it a two-possession lead of 48-43.
Andrews was fouled again after T.R. Miller inbounded the ball and again hit two foul shots to make it a three-possession lead of 50-43 with only 11.8 seconds left.
The Tigers draw Douglas in the opening round of the state tournament Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. at the Birmingham Civic Center. Douglas won the Northeast Regional championship with a 59-57 overtime win over Tarrant. Madison County and Central-Tuscaloosa will square off in the first semifinal game at 10:30 a.m. The two winners will return for the state championship game Friday at 8 p.m.
T.R. Miller 10 7 16 18 - 51
Andalusia 12 6 10 15 - 43
T.R. MILLER (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Jackson 3-0-8-14; Andrews 2-1-4-11; Middleton 4-0-2-10; Brooks 3-0-2-8; Stallworth 0-0-5-5; Walker 0-0-2-2; Curry 0-0-1-1 (Totals: 12-1-24-51)
ANDALUSIA (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Johnson 6-0-0-12; James 4-0-0-8; Sims 4-0-0-8; Wright 4-0-0-8; Ferrell 3-0-1-7 (Totals: 19-1-2-43)