Heartbreaker: Tigers fall in semifinals

Published 10:25 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tucker Lawless looks for room to score in Birmingham Tuesday night.

Tucker Lawless looks for room to score in Birmingham Tuesday night.

BIRMINGHAM – With little more than two minutes left on the clock in the semi-finals of the state AHSAA basketball tournament, Tucker Lawless and Rollin Kinsaul each scored to put the Straughn Tigers within two points of making it to the finals.

But the Westminster Christian Wildcats controlled the ball in the final minutes of play, and handed the Tigers a heartbreaking 41-37 loss here Tuesday night.

The Wildcats came firing out of the gate, and went up 6-0 in the first few minutes on a pair by Trey Petty.

The Tigers responded with consecutive baskets from Tucker Lawless and Austin Bozeman.

The Wildcats took a 9-4 lead when John Kendall connected on the Panthers’ third 3-pointer to start the contest.

Petty pushed the lead up to 11-4 with a steal and a fastbreak score.

The Tigers closed the gap with a 2-pointer from Johnanthan Driver, and then a 3-pointer from Marshall Farley.

The Wildcats added another basket from Petty, and Brice Scott ate into the lead with a buzzer beater.

The Tigers trailed the Wildcats 13-11 heading into the second period.

Rollin Kinsaul led off the second period with a 1-for-2 trip to the free throw line.

The Wildcats got two straight baskets from Jared Smith to take a 17-12 lead.

Driver responded with two straight baskets of his own to cut the lead back down to 1.

The Tigers tied the game up moments later with a 1-for-2 trip to the free throw line from Lawless.

The Tigers took their first lead of the contest when Scott knocked down a pair of free throws.

It didn’t take long for the Wildcats to tie the game back up at 19-19.

The Tigers took the lead right with a clutch 3-pointer from Kinsaul.

The Wildcats retook the lead with consecutive baskets, and led 23-22 at halftime.

To start the third period, the Wildcats jumped out to 28-22 lead.

The Tigers answered back with two straight baskets from Scott.

The Wildcats went into a stall offense, and the teams traded baskets to close out the third period. The Tigers trailed 32-28 heading into the final period.

Lawless started off the final period with 2 quick points to cut the lead back down to 2 points.

The lead quickly went back up to 7 points after the Wildcats converted 5 straight points.

It appeared that the Wildcats would easily stroll through the final frame, but the Tigers weren’t going away quietly.

Kinsaul cut the lead to 4 points with a big 3-pointer with 2:05 left in the contest. Lawless cut deeper into the lead with a great put back on a miss. The Tigers now trailed 39-37 with just 1:53 remaining.

It was as close as the Tigers would get to knocking off the Wildcats, who closed out the contest with 2 points from Tysean Whitehead to take a 41-37 victory.

With the win, the Wildcats earned a spot in Friday’s state championship game against West Limestone.

The Tigers were led in scoring by Lawless with 9 points. Scott added 8 points, and Kinsaul finished with 7 points.

“I was proud of our guys this season,” Tigers’ coach Rusty Andrews said. “We have come a really long way from the start of the season till now. I was proud to represent the South Region in Birmingham. We knew we were going to be playing a great ball team, but I didn’t realize how physical they would be. We work on what to do in close games, but we just couldn’t execute when we needed to. It is like I told the guys though, once you get to Birmingham there are no losers. We had a great season, and I’m proud of these guys”