Lady Tigers advance to tourney title game

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 11, 2006

The matchup everyone was expecting is going to happen.

It was merely a formality as the McKenzie Lady Tigers eliminated Florala in the semifinals of the Class 1A, Area 3 tournament to advance to the tourney final to face area foe J.F. Shields today.

McKenzie jumped out to a 31-14 lead at the half and cruised the rest of the way for a 64-49 victory.

&#8220We lost to (Florala) by one point, so I had to tell my kids not to overlook this team,” McKenzie coach Cindy Lowe said. &#8220It was a mind game. I didn't know how we were going to do it, but we just had to do it.”

With the win, the Lady Tigers continue to rewrite the school's basketball history book. This is the first time ever in the 14-year history of the girls basketball team that McKenzie has won its area, much less, advance to the area tournament championship.

Lowe said, as far as she knew, no McKenzie basketball team has been this far in the postseason.

McKenzie also guaranteed itself a spot in the sub-regional basketball playoff to face either McIntosh or Frisco City.

&#8220It's pretty exciting what we are doing,” Lowe said.

The Lady Tigers spent little time putting Florala away. McKenzie rolled off nine straight points to open the game before the Lady Wildcats scratched the scoreboard. By the end of the first eight minutes, McKenzie was off to a comfortable 20-8 lead.

&#8220We came out and played good, hard defense early,” explained Lady Tiger forward LaSha Pitts. &#8220We got into a flow and did what we had to do to win. We played like we needed to tonight.”

Carrena Davison, who was one of three players to finish with double figures, led McKenzie with 22 points.

Candis Davison pitched in 12, and Amber Rudolph netted 11.

Liz Ferman paced Florala with a game-high 24 points.

After taking a 31-14 lead into the lockerroom at the half, McKenzie eased off the gas some in the second half. Lowe made wholesale substitutions, and Florala crept its way back into the game. The Lady Wildcats drew within 10 points of McKenzie late in the fourth quarter before the Lady Tigers put the game out of reach.

McKenzie faces a J.F. Shields team that it split with in the regular season. The Lady Tigers knocked off the Panthers at home to pick up their first win over their area foe in school history.

J.F. Shields later returned the favor in Beatrice, so the two will decide the rubber match at 7 p.m. today.

The Lady Panthers advanced to the tournament championship game by eliminating Kinston, 63-38.

Tyika Robinson scored all of her team-high 13 points in the second half to spark J.F. Shields. Shante Finklea and Claudia Williams added 12 each.

Kaliegh Sanders scored a game-high 17 points to lead Kinston.

Pitts said that it will take a complete effort to knock off J.F. Shields in the title game.

&#8220We need to play like we did when we beat them the first time,” she said. &#8220We need to play hard all four quarters and play our game.”