CHULA — The Tiftarea Academy Panthers and Fullington Trojans split their Friday games. The boys saw nearly everyone have the hot hand in their 64-41 finish. The Lady Panthers lost by 5.
To take the their 44-39 score at face value, the reaction might be that it was neck-and-neck for four quarters. That would be selling Tiftarea short.
Until Ali Rippy scored 2.5 minutes into the 2nd quarter, it was a very different story. The score had been 23-2. It was so lopsided at that time, even coach Mike Patrick admitted he had lost track.
Fullington raced out to an 11-0 lead until the Lady Panthers were able to get a jumper from Macy Strenth with a minute remaining. Far from igniting a rally, they surrendered 12 straight points before Rippy's points.
That allowed Patrick to start up a fullcourt press and it immediately began paying dividends. When the horn signaled the end of the 1st half, the score was to 27-12. It would have been closer, but Meredith McGlamory threw up a shot with 3 seconds left that swished the net.
That shot, which could have returned the momentum to Fullington's side, instead fueled the Lady Panthers. When the visitors were forced to call a timeout at 5:09 in the 3rd, Patrick called out, "we're back in the ballgame."
They were. It had become a 7-point contest. Thirteen seconds later, the margin was down to 4 when Caitlyn Albritton drilled a 3-pointer. Ninety seconds after that, MacKenzie McWhorter tied it at 29. Sister, Jarrett McWhorter scored late in the quarter and they exited with a 31-33 lead.
The 4th quarter would be a duel to the finish. Strenth and Rippy scored to keep the lead, but the team's luck ran out. Darrian Bailey was fouled on a made basket that tied it at 39, then she made the free throw to put Fullington back on top. Bailey made two more from the line with 9 seconds left to seal the win.