Lady Tigers capture area tourney crown

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 16, 2006

It's all about having fun.

And right now, the McKenzie Lady Tigers are having a ball.

McKenzie fought off an early deficit to regain its lead and hold onto it for the remainder of the game to win the Class 1A, Area 3 tournament championship by posting its second win over J.F. Shields in the school's history Saturday night.

The Lady Tigers (19-7) advance to the 1A sub-regionals to host Frisco City, which lost to McIntosh, 102-50, at 7 p.m. Thursday.

&#8220We are just having fun now,” McKenzie coach Cindy Lowe said. &#8220We reached our goal by winning the area and beating J.F. Shields, Florala and Pleasant Home.”

Success is something new for McKenzie girls basketball. Before this season, the Lady Tigers had never had a winning basketball season. Last season was their best in school history when it reached the .500 mark.

So with every win, it just means a new entry in the McKenzie girls basketball history book.

&#8220I had a former player of mine see me one day and she was so excited that we beat Pleasant Home,” Lowe said. &#8220What these girls are doing and have done right now, I think means more to my former players than it does them. My former players understand how bad it was to lose to those teams all the time.”

J.F. Shields raced out to an early first-period lead before Lowe could even make a double-take at the scoreboard.

After a quick timeout, McKenzie settled down, regrouped and took the lead away from the Lady Panthers and never relinquished it for the remainder of the game.

McKenzie took a narrow 22-20 lead after the first eight minutes and then pushed ahead for a 41-33 advantage at intermission.

&#8220We expected them to pressure us more and play more of a man-to-man defense all night, but we never saw it,” Lowe said. &#8220They just laid back, and we took it to them.”

LaSha Pitts poured in 12 of her 20 points in the first half to lead the Lady Tigers.

Then Amber Rudolph came alive in the second half for McKenzie and netted 10 of her 17 points in the second half.

J.F. Shields made another comeback attempt in the third period by outscoring the Lady Tigers 16-12 to cut the deficit to four points. But McKenzie bounced right back to outscore the Lady Panthers 20-16 in the fourth to salt the victory away.

Carrena Davison led McKenzie with a game-high 22 points.

McKenzie now turns its attention to Area 1 runner-up Frisco City. The Lady Whippets have used their outside shooting to reach the sub-regional, while packing in a tight zone defense.

&#8220We are going to have to work on our zone offense and hope to get the ball inside to have a chance,” Lowe said.