CHULA — The Tiftarea Academy Lady Panthers are finally happy to see 2014. Sixteen days into the year, they broke into the win the column with a 54-39 decision over the Sherwood Christian Lady Eagles. The Panthers, though, could not complete the sweep, falling 54-47.
Girls coach Mike Patrick admitted after the game that the win was a relief. Mired in a four-game losing streak with their last win Dec. 30, the Lady Panthers did not just win, but put up a strong showing in shutting down Sherwood.
Tiftarea was ahead by eight points at the break and midway through the 3rd held a 12-point advantage. But that's when Sherwood got hot and went on an 11-2 run. Ashlyn Wilkinson's shot with 6.7 left looked to make it a 31-30 Tiftarea lead going into the 4th, but on her shot, the Lady Eagles were called for a foul. Wilkinson's basket counted, but Ali Rippy went to the line on her end of the floor. She made both free throws to put the lead back to 33-30.
Sherwood had one more opportunity to tie it up early in the 4th when Madison Walker was fouled on a made basket. She missed her chance from the line and Macy Strenth responded with a bucket.
From there, the Lady Panthers cruised. Despite Neeli Fortson picking up her 4th foul on Walker's points, the rest of the team came together to for a 19-5 streak to end the game. Key during those minutes were Strenth, Caitlyn Albritton, Jarrett McWhorter and Ali Rippy.
Rippy had a season-high 16 points during the contest. Fortson and McWhorter each scored 9, with 7 from Albritton.
Sherwood had 13 from Key'Yada Thomas.
Yogi Berra would have been inclined to say it was deja vu all over again for the boys.
Like Monday night, they found themselves in a deep hole in the 2nd half. And like Monday night, they cut it down to a basket's difference but could not get ahead.