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February 11, 2014

Lady Panthers hold on against Southland

CHULA — Mike Patrick had to be thrilled at the end of the 3rd quarter. The Tiftarea Lady Panthers were playing well and were owners of a 36-19 lead against the Southland Academy Lady Raiders, which seemed insurmountable.

Lucky for Patrick and his squad, that turned out to be the case. Tiftarea would not score in the 4th, but kept Southland out of the net just enough for a 36-33 win.

Dan Henderson's Panthers were not as lucky, falling 43-28. They were only a point down two minutes into the final period of their game, but watched as their opponents ended the game on a 19-5 streak.

When Jarrett McWhorter scored a short basket near the end of the 3rd period, her team was up by 19 points.

The rally would start with a shot by Kendall Crew that closed out the frame. She began the 4th with a free throw, then several other Lady Raiders had their turns chipping away at the lead. Ella Hawkins made it a 36-29 game, then Dallas Nesmith took over. She cut it 36-32 at 2:30, then to a three point game seconds later. However, she would miss two big charity shots at 1:37, with Tiftarea getting the rebound.

The Lady Panthers were able to work the clock down to 13 seconds before a jump ball was called, which returned possession to Southland. They had a shot blocked and had two 3-pointers bounce off the rim, including one by Nesmith as time expired.

Tiftarea had its chances to extend the lead during their scoreless final period, but were 0-6 from the free throw stripe.

It was their game early with Caitlyn Albritton scoring the last seven points of the 1st as they marched out to an 11-1 lead. That was extended to 20-9 at halftime.

Albritton had 14 points in the contest, with Neeli Fortson adding 11. Hawkins scored 8 for Southland and Crew had 7.

The Panthers had brief leads of 19-17 and 21-19 in the 3rd on a Rob Flick 3-pointer and a basket by Christopher Gravitt, but were down 24-21 at the conclusion of the quarter.

Jack Raines scored at 6:10 to make it a single point game, but Michael Valley was there to rescue the Raiders. He was fouled on the next possession and made both free throws, a start of a tear where he would score seven straight points for his team, broken up only by a Gravitt free shot. With help from teammates, the score would increase further and would be 35-24 before Nathan Carswell was able to squeeze in a point. Ethan Mims made a shot from beyond the arc, but by then it was too late.

The Panthers couldn't find a groove early against Southland. A Gravitt bucket five minutes in supplied their first points, but fortunately Southland was not doing much better. They had seven at the time and went up 12-4 when the horn sounded.

Tiftarea outscored them 11-4 in the 2nd, behind clutch shooting from Flick and Trent Hobbs. Southland was up 16-15 at intermission.

Valley had 18 to top Southland. Flick scored 9 and Gravitt had 6 for Tiftarea.

Patrick said that they would have to defeat Deerfield-Windsor Friday to be the top seeded girls team in the region. Tiftarea is currently undefeated and handed Deerfield their only region loss. Patrick also said that after facing Deerfield-Windsor this Friday, the Panthers would be seeing them again in the first round of the region tournament.

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