Published 12:13 am Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Straughn’s Tucker Lawless (right) drives against Excel’s Tworminthae Parker (21) Monday night. Lawless scored 17 points for the Tigers. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Straughn’s Tucker Lawless (right) drives against Excel’s Tworminthae Parker (21) Monday night. Lawless scored 17 points for the Tigers. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Tigers beat Excel 69-53 after 30-10 run in 4th; girls face adversity in 49-41 win

Straughn outscored Excel 30-10 in the fourth period and went on to earn a 69-53 victory over Excel for its first area championship title since the 2007-08 season.

The key for the Tigers in the final period during the Class 3A, Area 2 finals contest Monday night was picking up the pace, SHS coach Rusty Andrews said.

“We picked up our pace; we picked up our intensity,” Andrews said. “We just played lack luster (in the first three periods). You realize when you play a team for the third time that it’s hard for the guys to get up and that’s what I told them (after the third period in the timeout).

“I said, ‘guys, they just want it more than you do.’ I said we’re fixing to go to work, and we did,” he said.

SHS found itself in a 10-point hole during the third period, trailing 41-31 after Excel’s Madison Nall got a nice pass to Christian Gross for an easy bucket in the paint. All night, the Panthers penetrated the box, trying to get easy scores down low. It worked for the most part, but the adjustment SHS made was too much.

JD Driver drained a 3-pointer to cut it to 43-38 with 1:13 left in the third period, and Tucker Lawless made a free throw to bring it to a 4-point game going into the fourth.

By this point, Andrews said he felt “comfortable” about the Tigers’ chances to win.

“Once we got even with them, they’d have to play man on us,” he said. “We’re a pretty good man offensive team. I’m very proud of the guys though. They played through a lot of adversity.”

To start the fourth period, the sixth-ranked Tigers began their up-tempo pace and started running their run and pass offense. Lawless score the first two points to start a 10-0 run off of a wide open assist.

Driver would then try for a trey, but his shot missed. Quick on his feet, teammate Brice Scott got his first of two tip ins off of 3-pointer misses from Driver, to tie the game at 43-all.

From there, SHS put the game in drive and took over.

“They were very big, especially that second one that went around and around,” Andrews said about Scott’s tip ins. “Brice stepped up. He was sick earlier this week. They then went to a box and one on them and we knew to run our regular offense.”

Rollin Kinsaul drove the base line later for a 47-43 lead.

Excel’s Quamie Penn, who was outstanding from the arch last night, drained a 3-pointer to cut it back to three points at 49-46.

Scott then got his second tip in for a 51-46 lead later on. Down the stretch, EHS made some clutch shots on a 3-pointer from Rayford Dale. However, the Tigers (19-4) kept the game in their hands until the end as they went on to make foul shots in the end.

Andrews said another key to the game was the home crowd.

“The crowd, I felt like brought us back,” he said. “We had a great crowd tonight. We need another one Friday night.”

Straughn will host Bayside Academy (11-18) on Friday night in the South Sub-Regional. The Admirals lost 74-51 to Cottage Hill Christian in the finals last night.

The Panthers took the lead early in the third period. With 6:02 on the clock, Dale scored a 3-pointer to make it 32-38 to force SHS to call a timeout for a substitution.

Lawless, who scored a game-high 17 points to lead SHS, made a trey to get the game to 32-31.

Excel, ever vigilant on its inside game and pressure defense, increased its lead to 38-31 on Penn’s runner and 3-pointer.

Nall made it 43-33 on transition and almost got a 3-point play.

Kinsaul then drove the lane to cut it to 43-35.

Kinsaul chipped in 16 points; Driver had 15; and Scott laced in 12.

Penn led EHS with 18; and Dale had 14.

Orlando Lacey of Opp; Je’Von Hall of Southside Selma; Dale and Penn of Excel; and Driver, Kinsaul and Scott of SHS made the all tournament team.

Straughn’s Paige Taylor (12) during action in the second half Monday night. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Straughn’s Paige Taylor (12) during action in the second half Monday night. |
Andrew Garner/Star-News

Straughn girls 49, Southside Selma Girls 41

Straughn’s Lady Tigers made sure their “roar” was heard Monday night.

The Lady Tigers took Katy Perry’s popular song to heart as they played like champions to beat Southside Selma 49-41 to claim the Class 3A, Area 2 championship for the second straight year.

A big part of the win was the home crowd that was packed inside the SHS gymnasium.

Lady Tigers coach Scott Kinsaul said the packed house was “unbelievable.”

“I’m just so humbled by them showing up and supporting us,” Kinsaul said. “The girls deserved it. The crowd was just unreal.”

SHS faced adversity early and throughout the contest as the Panthers didn’t slow up their pressure defense and penetrating offensive attack.

The Lady Panthers ended the first period on a 6-0 run to cut Straughn’s 8-point lead to 16-14; kept the pressure up in the second to only trail 28-19 at halftime; and didn’t go away for the entire second half, despite trailing for the final 16 minutes.

However, second-ranked SHS (25-1) played a little better with the lead and held the Lady Panthers at bay down the stretch.

Kinsaul said he told his team how elated he was on how they responded to “adversity.”

“I thought they had the heart of a champion (Monday night),” he said. “There were several times they could’ve folded, but they kept making plays and when we needed a rebound, we got it; when we need a score, we got it; when we needed a stop, we got it.

“That’s what good teams do,” he said.

With the win, the Lady Tigers earned the right to host the South Sub-Regional on Thursday night at 6, where they will play T.R. Miller, who lost 55-22 to Cottage Hill. SHS needs to win Thursday’s game to earn a berth to play in the South Regional next week in Dothan.

Straughn’s Katelyn Kinsaul got a steal and drained a mid-range jumper to give the Lady Tigers an early 8-2 edge in the first period.

Southside’s Yasmine Mixson followed that up with a foul shot, and then got a 4-point play when she got fouled beyond the arch with 3:49 left in the opening eight. By this point, SHS guard Brentley Armstrong had two fouls, and the Lady Tigers would later find themselves in more foul trouble later on in the game.

From the bench, SHS guard Janelle Nurse played her best game, Kinsaul said, making a few three clutch 3-pointers and playing good defense late. Nurse’s first trey put SHS ahead 13-6.

Southside’s Ki’onna Likely, who couldn’t be stopped on drives to the paint, got the game to 13-8 on cruise control.

Jacie Williamson, who contributed early in the first, got a lay in off of a pass from teammate Paige Taylor to get it to 16-8.

By the end of the first, SHS led 16-14 after the run.

Armstrong found Williamson down low and SHS led 18-15. Kinsaul then got a jumper to go for a 20-15 lead in the second.

Likely then got two drives low in the paint to cut it to one at 20-19, taking advantage of missed SHS shots.

Nurse’s second 3-pointer started an 8-0 run that was eclipsed by Katie Lindsey’s old-fashioned 3-point play at the buzzer off of a steal to end the first half.

While SHS was dogging it on the boards, the Lady Panthers did a good job of feeding the ball to the outside, especially in the second half.

The Lady Tigers led 40-30 after Armstrong found Emily Wood wide open in the paint at the end of the third.

The closest SSHS got to the Lady Tigers in the fourth was after Brown’s 3-pointer with 4:22 to go. The bucket made it 43-37.

Williamson, who led SHS with 21 points, later showed her rebounding skill by grabbing two of her offensive rebounds for a putback to get it to 49-39.

Nurse chipped in 11 points. Kinsaul had eight.

Likely led SSHS with 17 points.

Mixson and Likely made the All-Tournament team, along with Williamson, Kinsaul and Taylor from Straughn. Additionally, Saquaya Lane of Opp, and McKaylan Brown of Excel were also selected.

Kinsaul said he got a lot out of his bench players.

“Our bench — they show up to practice and work and know they don’t get to play much,” the coach said. “They still have team first. That just shows what kind of character they’ve got.”