Sunshine puts damper on McKenzie#039;s dream season

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 22, 2006

MOBILE - McKenzie girls coach Cindy Lowe knew that the Lady Tigers' dream season would have to come to an end at some point.

Only she was hoping it would not happen here at the Mitchell Center at the University of South Alabama.

Sunshine, which has been a fixture in the Southwest Regional tournament here for years, used a swarming full-court press to force a number of turnovers that resulted in easy baskets to eliminate McKenzie 56-29 in its first ever berth in the Southwest Regional.

&#8220Was it ever a magical season for us,” Lowe said of her team that finished the season with a 20-8 record. &#8220That first weekend (of the season) we started off with Red Level and Greenville on the same day. We beat Red Level and then turned around and lost to Greenville by four points. After that afternoon you go in and think ‘hey, we may go somewhere.' And look where we ended up.”

While there was obvious disappointment after the game, Lowe could not keep from smiling over what her team accomplished in just one season. The record book at McKenzie has now been completely rewritten by this year's squad.

This was the first squad in school history to beat J.F. Shields in the 14-year history of the girls program at McKenzie. The Lady Tigers came away with a winning record, which was a first. McKenzie won the area outright - another first.

McKenzie won the area tournament and earned the right to host a sub-regional game - a first.

Then McKenzie advanced to the Southwest Regional tournament - another first.

But Lowe doesn't expect this year to be just a fluke season.

&#8220I expect us to be right back here next year,” she said.

McKenzie caught Sunshine, which will face McIntosh in the regional championship game Friday morning, off guard to open the game and rolled off six straight points before the Lady Tigers scratched the scoreboard.

Then Sunshine (19-5) shook off the rust from taking off a week since the sub-regional and battled back from an eight-point deficit to close the opening period with a 16-14 lead.

&#8220They shot the ball better than I expected them to do,” Sunshine coach Phillip Wasner. &#8220We knew about (their inside game), but we didn't think they could shoot as well from the outside as they did.”

So Sunshine turned up the pressure on McKenzie to open the second period and roll off 12-straight points to jump out to a 26-14 advantage with 5:50 left before intermission.

&#8220We knew we were going to give them some trouble with the press,” Wasner said. &#8220That's been our game all year - a high-pressure game.”

By picking up McKenzie with full-court pressure, the Lowe's Lady Tigers could not get into an offensive flow and trailed 36-25 at the half.

By the end of the game, McKenzie had committed 21 turnovers and Sunshine came away with 16 steals.

The game was more or less over by the half. Both teams shot poorly in the second half, and McKenzie could not put much of a dent into Sunshine's double-digit lead.

Francesca Bates and Shafontaye Myers led Sunshine with 19 points each, while John Quesha Childs added 15.

Candis Davison paced McKenzie with 12 points, while LaSha Pitts had 11.