Tigerettes falter in last two regular season games

2/25/2012

TUSKEGEE, Ala. – The Tigerettes are limping into the SIAC Tournament, which begins Tuesday at Forbes Arena on the Morehouse College campus in Atlanta, as the No. 3 seed after losing their final two regular season games.

No. 1 seed Fort Valley State, beat the Tigerettes 64-60 at the James Center Thursday and, No. 2 seed Stillman defeated them 65-53 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Saturday. Still, Coach Belinda Roby says the Tigerettes can still capture the title. The only issue is regaining their focus.

“We have some kids who are not  focused on the task and what we’re doing,’’ said Roby, who prior to the season predicted this would be one of her better teams in recent years. “If we can get focused, I still like our chances, absolutely. We’re in a good situation. We don’t have to rush into the gym to practice and try to get ready to play Tuesday. We can have a good scrimmage.’’

The Tigerettes (18-8, 15-7 SIAC) have a first-round bye and will play the winner of Tuesday’s Miles-Paine first-round match at 2 p.m. ET Thursday. The Tigerettes split two regular season games against Miles (15-11, 13-9 SIAC) with each winning on the other’s home floor; they beat Paine ( 6-20, 6-16 SIAC) twice, winning by 12 points at the James Center and by four in Augusta, Ga.

“The good thing is we have three days to get back on track,’’ Roby said, adding that she hasn’t been able to pinpoint what the Tigerettes tend to lose their focus from game-to-game and even during games. “With today’s kids, it can be any number of things.’’

Roby said that the Tigerettes modus operandi, particularly against the top teams in the conference, has not been to play two good halves. The lone exception, she said, was in their 67-51 home win against Benedict (18-8, 15-7), the No. 4 seed, on Jan. 28. The victory was the fifth in row for the Tigerettes during what became a six-game winning streak.

“This is the first team we’ve constantly had to push and try to get them focused,’’ Roby said. “Thank goodness, we have three days. That’s a big task. That’s my assignment. That’s what we’ll be doing. When they’re focused, I like the way they have played. That’s crucial.  You have to be focused. You don’t have a choice. You can’t go into the tournament not focused. When you lose, that’s it. You can’t go seven minutes without scoring. You can’t do that. You can’t miss eight or nine layups and win. You can’t miss free throws. Those things you just can’t do.’’

The Tigerettes played Fort Valley State (20-6, 18-4 SIAC) on more than even terms for 38 minutes, but faltered at the end. Alondra Rivers made a pair of free throws for the Tigerettes with 1:55 left to forge a tie at 56-all. However, Fort ValleyState ran off six consecutive points – four coming on crucial free throws in the final 25 seconds – to ice the victory.

The Lady Wildcats were six-for-six from the free throw line overall down the stretch.

The Tigerettes outplayed Fort Valley State for most of the first half, and they led by as many as 13 points. Fort Valley State’s first lead came at the 1:40 mark of the first period, and the Lady Wildcats were on top 31-29 going into the second half.

The Tigerettes surged ahead once again, and they kept the lead until Yasheeka Jones’ free throw with 4:25 left put Fort Valley State ahead 51-50. The Lady Wildcats never trailed again.

Both teams had their trouble taking care of the ball. Fort Valley State committed 24 turnovers, and the Tigerettes 23. However, Fort Valley State was able to capitalize on the Tigerettes’ miscues, converting them into 20 points. The Tigerettes scored 13 points off turnovers. The Lady Wildcats had an even greater advantage at the free throw line, where they were 19-for-30, compared to 10-for-22 for the Tigerettes.

Nnenna Eze led the Tigerettes with 16 points, and Rivers had 15. They were the Tigerettes’ only double figure scorers.

The Tigerettes fell apart in the second half against Stillman (19-7, 15-7 SIAC) after holding a 31-27 lead at the end of the first 20 minutes. The Tigerettes shot a frigid 17% (6-for-37) over the final 20 minutes; on the other hand, Stillman made 47% (10-for-21) of their shots from the field.

Stillman took the lead with 15:10 left in the game, thanks to a 10-4 run.

In spite of their poor shooting, the Tigerettes were only down three points, 56-53, with 1:53 remaining and had momentum on their side. However, Phylice Eubanks made a desperation three-pointer from near half court for Stillman with the shot clock winding down. That triggered a 9-0 run that doomed the Tigerettes to defeat.

Jennifer Anoka was the Tigerettes’ only double figures scorer. She had 10 points.

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