Lady Tigers top Jackson 37-35 in regional final, advance to Final Four

Published 10:58 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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MONTGOMERY – T.R. Miller put together a scrappy defense and held on late as the Lady Tigers beat Jackson 37-35 tonight in the AHSAA Class 4A South Regional Final at Garrett Coliseum.

TRM shot out to a 9-1 lead after the first period, and led 24-14 at halftime. The Lady Tigers held a 29-23 advantage going into the fourth period, made some clutch field goals and held on late in spite of a late Lady Aggies surge.

With the victory, the Lady Tigers improve to 23-4 overall, and advance to the Final Four, where they’ll play Anniston on Tues., Feb. 27, at 6 p.m. Anniston beat Cherokee County 34-24 on Feb. 22.

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“We’ve been playing defense all year,” TRM girls coach Ron Jackson, who is retiring at season’s end, said. “It’s a small bunch of kids, but they don’t mind scrapping. I can’t say too much for them. They just hustle, worked hard and never gave up.”
Never gave up the Lady Tigers didn’t.

TRM went up 36-27 after a nice inside pass from Lyrik Hails to Natasia Reed with more than 2 minutes left in the contest. After taking a timeout, the Lady Tigers turned the ball over and that gave a surge for Jackson.

Jackson’s Angel Powell got a three-point play; Jazmine Jones hit two free throws; and Tyra Caves made one free throw to cut the game to one point with 20.2 seconds left.

After a jump ball, TRM had possession and took a timeout with 18.3 left. From there, TRM’s Bethany Simmons made the back-end of a pair of free shots after being fouled with 10.4 to go.

The Lady Tigers would then hold out, and secure their berth to the state tournament.

When the contest was a one-point game, Jackson said the girls – even though they got in foul trouble – pulled it off.

Regional Tournament Most Valuable Player Serenity Mitchell and All-Tournament Team Selection Meg Fountain said it took leadership from the team to pull out the win.

“Our second team stepped up, definitely for us,” Fountain said. “We had people coming off the bench that contributed.”

Mitchell said defense was a big part of the win.

“We played tough defense the whole game,” Mitchell said. “We weren’t going to break against their best players.”
Fountain added that the aim was getting the Lady Aggies tired on defense.

For the 32-minute game, the Lady Tigers led for 31 minutes, 13 seconds, according to the official box score.

When asked what their mindset was late in the game and with it being a one-point game, Fountain said they left everything on the floor.

“That’s what our main goal was,” she said.

Mitchell added that they put it all out there.

Mitchell scored 11 points to lead the Lady Tigers. She added seven rebounds. Fountain added four points and two rebounds. Hails contributed with eight points and eight rebounds, and Reed scored five points and grabbed seven rebounds.

Jackson was asked postgame what it’s going to be like to finish his career at the Final Four.

“It’ll feel a little bit better if I win the whole thing, you think? I’m not saying we’re going to win it, but I’m saying it’ll feel a little better if we do win the whole thing,” Jackson said. “I can’t believe it. It’s been a good career. The Alabama High School Athletic Association has put on a great tournament.”

When asked if making it to Birmingham has caused him to rethink retiring, Jackson was quick to the draw.

“No. It’s going to take a whole lot of money to rethink that,” he quipped. “My grandkids are almost grown.”
Simmons was also named to the All-Tournament team. Caves and Powell of Jackson were named to the team as well.

During the third period, Simmons found an opening on a pick-and-roll move to give the Lady Tigers a 27-17 lead.

JHS ended the third on a small 4-0 run.

Mitchell was cooking early in the game, draining mid jumpers and getting good looks at the basket. She ended the first period on a 4-0 run, and continued such to start the second.

Fountain made two jumpers in the second, and Hails made a rebound and putback a short time later. Simmons and Hails made shots, and both teams went back and forth to end the first half.

Powell scored 14 points to lead the Lady Aggies.

Fountain and Mitchell said they’re going to leave it all out on the floor next week in the ‘Ham.

“We’re going to get back in the gym and practice, and get ready,” Fountain said.

Mitchell said it’s a pleasure playing for Jackson.

“He’s the best coach,” she said. “There are no words.”

Added Fountain, “He not only teaches us about basketball, but about life. He’s taught us so much stuff.”

Both agreed that the regional final win was a complete team victory.

“We’re going to leave it on the floor (at state),” Mitchell said.