Lady Tigers hold on to down Alcorn

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 11, 2004

LORMAN &045; Losing a second straight home game to archrival Jackson State by a slight margin sure has the capability of sending everyone home with sour stomachs.

But at this point in the season the Alcorn Lady Braves didn’t feel all too bad. Losing the 67-64 decision at home to the Lady Tigers didn’t sit well with anyone, but the Lady Braves fought back from a double-digit deficit in the second half to have a shot at sending into overtime.

Sure, it smarts, but, shoot &045; it’s only early January.

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&uot;I can say I was very proud of the way we came back and played,&uot; ASU head coach Shirley Walker said. &uot;I couldn’t have asked for anything more, but three weeks ago I wouldn’t have confidence to say something like that. This was one of the best games we’ve played. When we got into the dressing room, all I could say was, ‘Hey &045; you fought a good fight.’ That’s the way basketball is.&uot;

The Lady Braves (2-9, 1-2) improved their game significantly in the second half after a down first half marred by turnovers and defense that left JSU players not named Amie Williams to knock down some shots.

But they clawed back to make a game of it thanks to some Jackson State missed three throws and had a chance to tie it with five seconds left. Tiffaney Smith drained a 3-pointer, and JSU was called for a five-second violation on the in-bound.

The Lady Braves set up under the basket, but Smith couldn’t get an open look and didn’t hit the shot.

&uot;We knew 20 (Smith) and 11 (Shikhia Sims) were 3-point shooters,&uot; Jackson State head coach Denise Taylor said. &uot;Our players just really executed defensively, got out there and got a hand up. We made a stop that we needed. It wasn’t easy. Coach Walker &045; I have a lot of respect for her. Every time you play a Shirley Walker team, you have to match their intensity.&uot;

The Lady Braves trailed by nine with just over five minutes to play but trimmed the lead in a hurry. LaToya Johnson hit a jumper with 1:51 left to cut the lead to 61-60 &045; Jackson’s slimmest lead since just over three minutes into the game &045; before Jackson hit some key shots.

Big 6-7 Amie Williams, who faced a double-team the entire night, hit two crucial buckets late when the Lady Tigers lobbed it into her right in front of the goal. The first one came with 1:06 left, and the second one came with 35 seconds left that put the lead at 66-61.

Williams finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds before exiting with a twisted ankle with 22 seconds left.

&uot;We were playing her up until the end, and she got a couple layups,&uot; Alcorn center Candace Roberts said. &uot;But that 3-pointer at the end, I think we rushed it. This game tonight was something positive for the team. I see a lot of positives. We were down by 11 and came back. We’ve got to play the first half like we do the second half.&uot;

Williams hit a bucket at the start of the second half that got the lead to 40-30 before the Lady Braves hit some buckets to make a run. They fared much better from the free throw line than Jackson as Johnson hit two as part of a 8-2 run that got the deficit to four, 42-38.

But it was the other JSU players who kept making plays &045; point guard Latesha Lee hit a a basket with 8:21 left for a 52-42 leads, and Shante Stanford drained a 3-pointer with 5:54 left to put the lead at 57-48.

The Lady Braves maintained their 2-3 zone defense aimed at stopping Williams, but Stanford’s 18 points, Lee’s 10 assists and Shelita Burns’ 12 points was too much.

&uot;I thought with the turnovers we had and we let No. 12 (Lee) get some rebounds at some crucial times, some missed free throws and turnovers cost us the game,&uot; Walker said. &uot;But with the way our freshmen are playing, I’m very proud of them.

The Lady Tigers’ defense kept Alcorn quiet for two three-minute stretches during the first half to post a sizeable lead by halftime. Early on the Lady Tigers went on an 11-0 run &045; six from Williams &045; to take a 22-9 lead.

After Alcorn cut it to six on a bucket from Catronda Thornton at the 7:27 mark, the Lady Tigers went on an 8-2 run to take a 32-20 lead with 3:58 left. After Johnson sank a basket with 6:30 left, the Lady Braves didn’t score again until Johnson converted a layup off a steal on the other end of the court at the 2:41 mark.

Alcorn finished with 17 turnovers in the first half.