Tigers clinch homecourt advantage

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 17, 2005

On Monday night, they cut down the nets.

Which meant the Luverne Tigers will have to hang them right back up again.

Luverne ran away from Highland Home 74-56 to claim the Class 2A, Area 5 tournament title and will host Clay County on Friday night in a sub-regional contest.

The winner will advance to the Class 2A Boy's Southeast Regional Tournament, starting at Troy University on Feb. 23.

"This is big for this team," said Tigers' head coach Richard Dorsey. "I believe this is the first time we've advanced to a sub-regional game in about eight or nine years so this is also big for the City of Luverne. I'm proud of these kids and what they've accomplished. They worked hard to help me build this program and stuck with me through the last few years."

The Tigers received double-digit contributions from Macklin Burnett, Gary Franklin and Fred Hawkins. Burnett led all a scorers with 23 points, while Franklin added 22 and Hawkins scored 15.

The game was back and forth for much of the first period, but the Tigers began to exert their dominance midway through the half. Down 13-10 to the Flying Squadron, Luverne started a run.

A big run.

Two foul shots by Burnett keyed a 20-2 run by the Tigers, which lasted well into the second quarter. Franklin dropped in eight straight points as Luverne took control of the first half. O'Darries Bryant finally halted the bleeding for Highland Home with a driving lay-in and subsequent foul shot.

The damage, though, was done.

Luverne led 39-27 at the break.

But the lead, as it turned out, wasn't much of a lead after all.

Highland Home responded.

Three straight steals, seven straight points and the Tigers' lead was cut to five, 39-34.

Desmond Sankey's two field goals and Tony Merriweather's basket cut the margin. Arico Harris chipped in a foul shot.

Dorsey called a time out to get his team settled.

"We typically have trouble coming out after halftime," he said. "To their credit, they (HHHS) came out and played with a little more intensity than we did."

The Tigers used another run to put the Flying Squadron away, scoring 14 points over the latter part of the third period. The Flying Squadron was able to muster eight points during that same span.

The fourth was a flurry of field goals by both teams, but the Tigers capped off the tournament with footrace to the finish line. Hawkins scored then punctuated the lead with dunk and Franklin hit an acrobatic shot falling down, also earning a trip to the foul line in the process. The Tigers scored the final 12 points of the game.

Now comes Friday's sub-regional contest.

"Historically, they're (Clay County) a football school," he said. "So I'm pretty sure they're going to have some atheletes."

Highland Home was led by Derrick Dulaney, who scored a team-high 14 points. Merriweather added nine points for the Flying Squadron.

Highland Home travels to play their sub-regional game against Lanett on Friday night

Both games are scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m.