Red Level advances in thriller

Published 11:54 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Red Level's Raheem Bullock drives down the court with Wicksburg defenders on his heels Wednesday.

MOBILE — It took not one, not two, but three overtimes for Red Level to get its shot at playing in the finals of the Class 2A South Regional Tournament on Wednesday.

The Tigers dueled with Wicksburg in a back-and-forth contest, and came away with a 65-63 triple OT victory over the Panthers in the semifinals of the regional at the Mitchell Center on the University of South Alabama’s campus in Mobile.

With this victory, the Tigers (23-10) will face top-ranked and undefeated Barbour County in the regional finals on Friday at 6:45 p.m. The last time Barbour County lost a game was in the state finals last season against Tanner.

“I’m happy for the boys,” RLS coach Allen Catrett said. “They’re the ones that put in all of the hard work and bought into the system. It’s good to see it pay off for them.”

Red Level built a 57-55 lead with 3:12 to go in the third overtime on a KJ Lawrence drive to the paint.

After Wicksburg’s Truman Whitaker threw the ball away, Red Level’s Troy Nolen found James Feagin — for one of his seven assists — on the inside to draw a big 3-point play. The Tigers led 60-55 with Feagin’s extra point with 1:19 to go in the third OT.

Lawrence got the front-end of a pair of free shots with 1:07 and RLS led 61-55 later in the decider.

The Panthers cut the game to four points with a drive to the bucket by Austin Sellers at 61-57.

After a Panthers timeout and a Feagin free throw, the Tigers led comfortably at 62-57 with 51.2 left in the game.

Lawrence added a pair of free throws with 41.6 seconds left, and the Tigers burned their last time out, which at the end, almost proved costly.

Wicksburg’s Davian Johnson got an easy bucket at the lane and the Panthers trailed 64-60 with 24.2 seconds left.

Red Level’s Dee Tolbert got the back-end of a pair of free throws with 21.6 left to give the Tigers a much-needed 5-point, 65-60 lead.

Wicksburg added a 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left, called a timeout and was given a technical foul for exceeding the timeout limit.

However, with no timeouts left, Lawrence missed his two free throws and when it was time to throw the ball in, the Tigers did exactly what they were supposed to do at the end of the game, Catrett said.

Lawrence led all Tigers with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists. Feagin chipped in 17 points and five rebounds; and Tolbert — who was 2-for-2 from the perimeter — had 14 points.

Wicksburg surged ahead to a 53-50 lead in the second over time when Sellers got a 3-point play at the start.

The Tigers didn’t waver as Nolen found Feagin to cut the lead to 53-52.

Later, in the second OT, Tolbert was fouled behind the perimeter and made two of his three shots to lead 54-53 with 2:42 left in the “sixth period.”

The Panthers answered with a drive by Gabriel Richards to lead 55-54.

Bullock broke the lead with 44 seconds left with the front-end of a pair of free throws.

Throughout the overtime periods, both teams were plagued with turn overs and had opportunities to seal the win.

It was 55-55 at the end of the second overtime.

Red Level, through a designed play of keeping the ball away from the Panthers, held the ball for almost three minutes in the first overtime period.

Wicksburg got a 3-pointer from Joe McNeal with 47 seconds to lead 50-48, but Lawrence said this game wasn’t over and answered with a drive and lay up on the other end to tie it at 50-50.

“(McNeal) hit a three, and we were down by two, and once we scored again and went into the second one (over time), I kind of felt like we had it after that,” Lawrence said.

Red Level’s fans, who traveled more than 120 miles got a game-experience they’ll never forget.

Lawrence said the team’s supporters helped out a lot.

“Our fans, they make the game more exciting,” he said. “They gave us a boost in the game.

“Especially when they travel all the way to Mobile, we just didn’t want to dissapoint.”

The Tigers shot 55.6 percent from the field, compared to Wicksburg’s 34.8 percent. On the perimeter, RLS was 100 percent going 3-of-3.

In the fourth period, the Tigers had a nice 47-38 lead with 2:57 left, but the Panthers conjured up a 9-0 run, thanks to some turnovers and missed shots by RLS.

McNeal helped send the game into OT on a drive to the paint with 47 seconds left.

Red Level trailed 10-8 after the first period, but dominated the next 16 minutes to outscore Wicksburg 15-13 in the second period and 14-7 in the third period.

Catrett said he had to change defenses up a couple times to get in Wicksburg’s face on the perimeter.

“In the fourth quarter, they started hitting outside shots,” Catrett said. “We went to more of a soft man-to-man. We didn’t play it perfect, but it allowed us to get a hand in the shooter’s face.”

The game was tied at 13-all at half time, and the Tigers led 37-30 going into the fourth period.

McNeal led Wicksburg with 19 points; Sellers had 14 points; and Gabriel Richards had 10 points.