Tigerettes advance to SIAC championship game, fall to Lady Wildcats
ATLANTA, Ga. – The Tigerettes, the No. 3 seed, fell short in their bid to upset top-seeded Fort Valley State Saturday in the championship game of the SIAC women’s tournament at Forbes Arena on the Morehouse College campus in Atlanta.
After being ahead by five points at the end of the first 20 minutes, the Tigerettes relinquished the lead midway through the second half and went on to lose 61-52.
The Tigerettes, who returned to the championship game for the first time since winning the title in 2008, ended the season with a 20-9 record. It is the fifth 20-win season of Coach Belinda Roby’s 13-year tenure
“It was one of our better seasons since 2008,’’ Roby said. “We just didn’t finish. We had to do a whole lot of pushing. I thought we could get to where we got. I knew it wouldn’t be easy.’’
The Tigerettes’ defeat followed the same pattern as their 64-60 loss to
Fort Valley State at the James Center 10 days earlier. They again played the Lady Wildcats on virtually even terms for a large portion of the contest, but were unable to close them out.
“It was a repeat of the same situation,’’ Roby said. “We played good for 30 minutes and didn’t play good for 10. You have to play good for 40 minutes in a championship game. It is what it is. The kids are not mentally tough. We just got outhustled. That’s something that as a coach you can’t coach. Some kids do it; some don’t. He (Fort Valley coach Lonnie Bartley) has more that do. I have to give him credit for his kids hustling. When you look at them walking around, they don’t look like much. However, when they get out on the court they hustle.’’
The Lady Wildcats’ hustle enabled them to enjoy a 43-31 rebounding edge. They grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, which led to 16 second chance points.
“They know how to hustle and go after it.’’
After trailing 30-25 at the half, Fort Valley State outscored the Tigerettes 14-6 and took a 38-30 lead when Dominique Collier made a pair of free throws at the 11:48 mark.
The Tigerettes never led again. They trimmed Fort Valley State’s lead to four points, 56-52, with 48 seconds remaining when Amelia Dorton made a pair of free throws. However, Fort Valley State iced the game by making five out of six free throws the rest of the way as the Tigerettes were forced to foul in an effort to get the ball back.
The Tigerettes controlled the first half with strong defense and timely shooting. They held Fort Valley State to 28% from the field (7-for-28) and forced the Lady Wildcats to commit 13 turnovers.
The score was tied 10-10 with 9:28 left in the first half. The Tigerettes eased out to an eight-point lead before settling for a five-point advantage at the half.
The script flipped in the second half. The Tigerettes lost their shooting touch, making just six of their 27 field goal attempts (22.7%; they also committed 12 turnovers.
The Tigerettes, who had a first-round bye, advanced to the championship game by defeating Miles 59-58 on Nnenna Eze’s buzzer-beater Thursday and holding on to beat Stillman 72-65 Friday in the quarterfinals thanks to some clutch free throw shooting in the final minutes.
Miles gave the Tigerettes fits in their two regular season contests, losing 64-58 in Birmingham and winning 66-64 at the James Center. The Lady Bears were up to their old tricks when the teams played for the third time.
The Tigerettes led from the outset and were ahead by as many as nine points in the first half. However, Miles kept hanging around and never allowed the Tigerettes to take command of the game despite their lead.
The Lady Bears finally took the lead, 50-49, with 5:55 left in the game. The lead changed four times and the score was tied twice before Eze converted the winning basket. Courtney English’s jumper in the paint with 15 seconds on the clock put Miles ahead 58-57 and set the stage for Eze’s bucket, which came with four seconds remaining.
The Tigerettes made eight of 10 free throws in the final 2:31 to hold Stillman off. Their only field goal during that span came on Jazlyn Fuller’s three-pointer at the buzzer. The Tigerettes held a nine-point lead, 65-56, with 1:19 left after Demetries McNealey made a pair of free throws and appeared to have the victory sewed up. However, Stillman cut the lead to four points twice. Fuller sank two free throws after Stillman closed to 65-61, and Fuller made a three-pointer to provide the final margin.
Stillman led for most of the first half, but never by more than four points. The Tigerettes took the lead, 21-20, when Amelia Dorton made the first of two free throws at the 6:25 mark. Jennifer Anoka rebounded Dorton’s miss, and Dorton nailed a jumper to stretch the lead to three points. The score was tied three times before the half ended with the Tigerettes on top 34-31.
Eze, who averaged 12.7 points and 7.7 rebounds, was named to the All-Tournament team.