Luverne outlasts Highland Home 65-60, Tigers will host area
It didn't come without drama.
The Luverne High School boy's basketball team completed a 6-0 sweep of Class 2A, Area 5 with a 65-60 overtime win at Highland Home on Friday night.
Already secured an area title, thanks to the Flying Squadron's loss to Elba last Tuesday, the Tigers' defense held up in the waning seconds of regulation. Tied at 55-55, Highland Home's Tony Merriweather was unable to get a good shot off driving to the goal.
Luverne's Pat Parks and Gary Franklin combined for six early points in overtime, as the Tigers outscored the Flying Squadron 10-5 to finish the game. Desmond Sankey accounted for all Highland Home's points in overtime.
Luverne head coach Richard Dorsey knew the game would be a tight contest.
"Anytime we get together with Highland Home or Brantley it's going to be a battle," he said. "We played a lot better in this ball game than we have in the past few weeks. We've had some internal problems, but I think we have those worked out."
As area winner, the Tigers have earned the right to host this year's tournament, which starts on Feb. 10. Luverne will have to win at least one game to be assured a berth in sub-regional play. The winner of the area tournament will host a sub-regional contest, while the runner-up will be forced to travel. New Brockton, Elba and Highland Home will all come into the Tigers' gym hoping to play the role of spoiler.
"We just need to win one and playing at home will help us," said Dorsey. "This was one of our goals coming into the season - to win the area. And we've accomplished that."
At 16-8 on the year, however, Dorsey was hoping for a better overall record this season. The Tigers have spent the majority of the year in the Class 2A Top Ten, but fell out in the past few weeks after close losses to Pike County and Goshen.
"I would have thought we'd had a better record at this point in the season," he said. "But we've lost some close ones. We've won the ones that count, though."
Friday night's contest was a battle from the start.
Highland Home led 11-9 after the first quarter, but both offenses opened up in the second.
And it came in the form of Franklin.
Franklin dropped in 10 of his game-high 22 points in the second quarter. He opened the period with back-to-back goals and followed with consecutive three-pointers midway through the quarter.
Sankey, meanwhile, responded for the Flying Squadron. He scored six straight at one point in the second, but Luverne's Fred Hawkins assured the Tigers of the halftime lead with a two-pointer. Luverne led 29-27 at the break.
Highland Home opened fast out of the locker room, scoring seven points to re-claim the lead. Luverne answered with a run of its own and the final two minutes of the third was a flurry of points as each team one-upped the other.
Luverne grabbed a 55-53 advantage on Macklin Burnett's two-pointer with less than a minute remaining in the fourth. The Flying Squadron's Derrick Dulaney went to the foul line twice in the waning seconds, but could only sink two shots from the charity stripe to tie the game at 55-55. After a traveling call on Luverne, the Flying Squadron had a chance to win it with 25 seconds remaining but the Tigers defense stiffened in the lane, denying Merriweather a good look at the basket.
Hawkins finished with 14 points for Luverne, behind Franklin and Parks and Burnett each added 10 points.
Sankey led the Flying Squadron with 13 points, while Merriweather and O'Darries Bryant scored 11 apiece.
Highland Home 57
Amanda Dunn paced the Lady Flying Squadron against Luverne, scoring 24 points in the home team's 57-24 victory.
Highland Home will play host to the Class 2A, Area 5 girl's tournament next week.
Lashane Dixon scored 10 for the visiting Lady Tigers.