Andy girls advance to finals

Published 11:18 pm Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Andalusia's Shi'Amber Townsend throws up a shot during her team's 62-54 win over top-ranked Good Hope Wednesday night at the BJCC Arena in Birmingham.

BIRMINGHAM — Andalusia’s Shi’Amber Townsend knew she had to have a big game for the Lady Bulldogs in the second half of the Class 4A girls state semi-finals here Wednesday night.

Townsend pulled down eight rebounds in the final 16 minutes and scored 27 points to help lead No. 6 AHS to a 62-54 victory over top-ranked Good Hope.

“Our motto is ‘Go Hard, or Go Home,’ ” Townsend said. “We knew if we didn’t go hard, we’d go home. Nobody wanted to lose.

“I just stepped up and played,” she said.

With this victory, the Lady Bulldogs improve to 30-2 overall and increase their win streak to 28. Andalusia will face No. 5 Jacksonville on Saturday at 9 a.m. in the state championship.

This is the first time AHS has played in the state finals since 2001.

“I don’t know where to start other than I’m just thankful for the group we’ve got,” AHS coach Bennie Shellhouse said. “When we started this four years ago, we didn’t know how good we were going to be. Two trips to the Final Four and a 107-13 record later, here we are.”

From the start of Wednesday’s game, Andalusia’s full-court press gave Good Hope problems.

The Lady Raiders couldn’t answer the AHS attack, missing shots normally made from the court.

Townsend got a putback early and managed a block on the other end to get things on a roll. She added another block again a few seconds later to force a GHHS time out with 7:05 in the first period.

Andalusia led 7-2 with 5:45 to go on two free throws made by Townsend, but the Lady Raiders came back to within one on a Cierra Jenkins putback.

After an Alexis Horton trey, the Lady Bulldogs took a 10-6 lead with about 3:45 to go, and then Alectricia Barnes got a jumper to give AHS a 12-9 advantage later on.

The Lady Bulldogs led 13-12 after the first period and led 29-20 with 3:02 to go in the first half.

With two fouls already, Horton picked up her third seven seconds later and sat down to watch the Lady Raiders get back in the game when they cut the lead to 29-27 off of a steal and a lay up by Kayla Tillman.

“When we went in to half time, we were up by three and were just like ‘we’ve worked all year for this,'” Townsend said about half time. “‘We need to bust our butt.'”

The Lady Bulldogs did that and a little more.

The contest went back and forth in the third period, and AHS trailed 40-36.

After a brief time out, the Lady Bulldogs came out, regrouped and cut the game back to two on a pass from Alison Daniels to Barnes. Barnes later added a drive and GHHS held a 42-40 lead with less than a minute to go.

Andalusia and the Lady Raiders (33-2) were tied at 44-all at the end of the third period.

During the press conference after the game, rebounding was the central topic of discussion.

Townsend helped put the game away for Andalusia when she got a 3-point play off of an offensive rebound and putback with 6:16 left in the fourth period.

“We had talked about that all week,” Shellhouse said about the offensive rebounding. “That’s just been probably one of our weak spots, just making sure we get those offensive rebounds and putbacks.

“She (Townsend) played really hard tonight and you can tell that she really wanted it,” he said. “I told them at half time, ‘this is all about you.’ We did a game plan (in the second half). It wasn’t working, and then I reverted to my game plan — just to go back to our press and it worked for us. We started getting turn overs and rebounds.”

Andalusia took a 58-48 lead on the front-end of a pair of free throws by Horton with 2:18 to go.

The Lady Bulldogs led 60-51 with 47.7 left as GHHS kept send AHS to the line.

When it was all said and done, the AHS bench erupted, the team gave itself a big hug and smiles were everywhere.

Horton was asked to describe Townsend’s play at the press conference after the game.

“She was a beast,” Horton said.

Horton finished with 16 points for the Lady Bulldogs.

Nina Mills led GHHS with 17 points, and Tillman chipped in 13.