HOWELL’S COVE -- Talladega County Central held on to defeat archrival Winterboro 64-58 in the championship game of the Class 1A, Area 9 Tournament on Friday at Clearance Marble Gymnasium.
This is the fourth season in a row the Lady Fighting Tigers have claimed the area crown.
With the win, TC Central will host Coosa Christian in a 1A northeast sub-regional game Monday at 7 p.m.
”It was just what I thought it would be,” TC Central head coach Robert Duncan said. “They came in ready to play, and I tell the kids all the time it is hard to beat a team four times in a season. Our girls withstood the test, and they were able to pull it off in the end.
“Hats off to Coach (Sheroderick) Smith and the Winterboro girls for the effort that they gave. They came in with a good game plan.
“Our girls did what a mature basketball team is supposed to do, withstand the run and hold on at the end. It doesn’t matter if it is by 40 points or four points. The key is to win, and that’s what our girls did. Sometimes, you just have to grind out wins.”
This was the fourth time the teams had faced off, and just like two of the previous contests, it came down to the final period.
The game was tied at 48-all going into the last eight minutes, but the Lady Fighting Tigers went on a 9-2 run to take a 57-50 lead with 4:42 left.
TC Central also turned up its intensity late, holding Winterboro scoreless for four minutes in the fourth period.
The Lady Bulldogs used a flurry of quick baskets to fight back. Winterboro went on a 7-1 run capped off by a Jada Lawler 3 off a turnover to cut the margin to 58-57 with 2:09 to go.
The Lady Fighting Tigers, however, kept their composure and made plays late, closing the game with a 6-1 spurt.
Ja’Miya Whitson and DeVona Gover both drained a pair of free throws to give TC Central a 62-57 advantage.
Defensively, TC Central closed out on Winterboro’s shooters and didn’t allow them second-chance opportunities.
Faith Johnson put the game away when she scored a layup in transition to make it 64-58.
Johnson, selected the tournament MVP, finished with 17 points.
“It feels good to be the MVP,” Johnson said. “I would like to thank my teammates for trusting me with the ball. We had great attitudes (throughout the tournament). We focused on getting the ‘W.’”
The Lady Fighting Tigers had three other players score double figures: Alisha Morris with 14 points, Amiya Sillmon with 11 and Gover with 10. All three made the all-area team.
Winterboro had three players score in double figures: Kya Brown and Taniya Garrett finished with 17 points apiece, while Lawler poured in 16. Each member of the trio earned an all-tournament nod.
The Lady Bulldogs will travel to take on Spring Garden on Monday at 7 p.m.
Smith was pleased with the way his team performed.
“It shows that we were able to give a competitive game,” Smith said. “A loss tonight is something that I am proud of because our girls fought through adversity on the court, and they fought through some in the stands. The only adversity we should be facing is on the court. Everything else should be support.”