Defense keys Lady Tiger comeback in overtime sub-regional win

DeeDee White pulls a pivotal three-point shot from the win in overtime as the Lady Tigers downed Beauregard 56-48 Monday in sub-regional play.

DeeDee White pulls a pivotal three-pointer from the wing that would give her team the lead in overtime as the Lady Tigers downed Beauregard 56-48 Monday in sub-regional play.

Demopolis appeared ready to watch its season end as the third quarter came to a close Monday before embarking on a 25-7 run to down Beauregard 56-48 in Class 5A sub-regional action.

“We will never be out of a game. If you have a mindset that you know you’re in the game, you can play defense and get the ball back and you’ve got enough time, you will never be out of a game,” Demopolis junior guard DeeDee White said of her team’s resilience.

“Character came out again in these girls tonight,” Demopolis coach Tony Pittman said. “These girls have an inner ability. They do not want to quit. They do not want the season to end and they were going to do everything they possibly could to make sure that didn’t happen tonight and it worked for us.”

Demopolis coach Tony Pittman displays the passion that proved indicative of the Lady Tigers' 25-7 run to end Monday night's sub-region win over Beauregard.

Demopolis coach Tony Pittman displays the passion that proved indicative of the Lady Tigers’ 25-7 run to end Monday night’s sub-region win over Beauregard.

Demopolis trailed 27-26 at half and went scoreless until the 2:09 mark in the third quarter when Sylvia Clayton scored on a put-back and hit the ensuing free throw. The sequence represented the majority of the five points the Lady Tigers scored in the frame.

Demopolis then watched as Ty Thomas dished off to Alexxis Milner who drained a three at the third quarter buzzer to stretch the Beauregard lead to 41-31. As the air seemed to go out of the building, Demopolis coach Pittman gathered his team.

“I told our girls when we got to the floor, ‘Here’s what we’ve got to go back to: one possession at a time defensively. One possession at a time defensively, we’ll get right back in the ball game. They’re turning the ball over. All we’ve got to do is stay in front of them, keep our pressure there and we’ll get back in the ball game,’” Pittman said. “And we did tonight.”

With Caleb Washington out due to injury and the team’s only other senior, Ebony Moore, fouled out of the game, the Lady Tigers began to blaze a comeback trail predicated upon their defensive intensity.

“We were very aggressive going for the ball. We were overrunning the pass and they were able to take the ball and streak down the floor. So we made the adjustment,” Pittman said of the late-game tweak that led to a bevy of Beauregard turnovers. “We took the person off the ball and put them as a safety because our girls were getting great pressure and they couldn’t inbound the ball to the guards, so they were looking to throw the ball long. So we made that adjustment and put DeeDee back there. I was surprised they still tried to throw the ball like that. It was just great team pressure tonight.”

“We work on defense all the time. I knew my team needed me tonight,” White, who had nine steals in the game, said. “That’s what I had to do was to step up and play defense.”

With 2:33 to play in regulation, White inbounded the ball to Courtney Hill who drained a three from the left corner to cut the deficit to 45-44.

Sylvia Clayton drives through the contact of Beauregard defender Nakita Johnson Monday.

Sylvia Clayton drives through the contact of Beauregard defender Nakita Johnson Monday.

“I was in the moment,” Pittman said. “Every shot that went up I was just leaning and ducking and dodging, hoping it would go in because if it goes in, we were able to get into our pressure defense.”

With 1:59 left on the fourth quarter clock, Clayton sent a pass inside to Darnesha Harris who dropped in a shot from the right block to give Demopolis its first lead since the opening minutes at 46-45.

“Darnesha gave us great energy off the bench. Eb got in foul trouble and I turned and I told her, ‘We have got to have you. We need you. We believe in you.’ She went in there and she gave us great energy off the boards. She played the way Darnesha is supposed to be playing and the way we expect her to play. If she continues to play like that, great things are going to happen for this basketball team,” Pittman said. “I saw it in her eyes when she left the bench. I knew she was going to go in and do great things. Her energy off the bench sparked everybody else on the floor. Everybody else’s energy level went up as soon as she went on the floor. She was just relentless on the boards. She kept the ball active for us and she was finding those open shooters. She proved big for us tonight.”

Beauregard immediately took the lead back 11 seconds later when Thomas hit a drive-and-dish to Milner on the left block for a laying and the 47-46 Hornet advantage.

Beauregard added a free throw off the hand off Sham Adams with 36.6 left to up the lead to 48-46. That proved to be the last points Beauregard would score in the contest.

After the Lady Tigers forced a Beauregard turnover on five-second inbound violation with 28.4 left on the clock, Ivery Moore drove in hard from the left wing and absorbed contact on a layup attempt. Moore grabbed her own rebound and put the shot right back up to tie the game at 48.

“She was frustrated big time because we were not getting the call. She was just relentless. She knew she wanted to score that basket,” Pittman said. “If it took everything she had within her body, she was going to make sure she made it. She missed the layup, we got the rebound and powered it back up. She was just determined. These girls were determined tonight.”

“Fight. I saw fight in her,” Clayton said of Moore’s demeanor on the game’s pivotal bucket. “We all knew she wanted it.”

Ivery Moore hoists a shot during Monday's win over Beauregard. Moore hit the shot to tie the game with six seconds left in regulation.

Ivery Moore hoists a shot during Monday’s win over Beauregard. Moore hit the shot to tie the game with six seconds left in regulation.

Thomas then ran the length of the floor and hoisted a floater that would have sent Beauregard to the regional round, but the shot twice drew iron before ricocheting into the waiting hands of Harris.

Harris, who came off the bench to lead Demopolis with 10 rebounds, came up big on the only field goal of overtime when she snagged an offensive rebound on the left block, dribbled out and kicked it to a wide open White, who drained a three from the wing to give Demopolis a lead it would never lose at 51-48.

“What was going through my mind was get the rebound and either go back up or kick it out,” Harris said. “I believe in my teammates and I knew she was going to make the shot.”

“We are also determined players. You can never stop someone who knows where they’re going,” Clayton said. “I’ve always heard that quote. You can never stop someone who knows where they are going. We knew where we were going tonight.”

White led the Lady Tigers with 14 points to go along with nine steals, three rebounds and three assists. Clayton finished with 11 points, six assists and five steals. Hill had 10 points and six rebounds for Demopolis.

Adams had 17 points and five rebounds to lead Beauregard while Thomas had nine points, six assists and five steals. Kendall Tucker had nine points and 19 rebounds for the Hornets.

Demopolis advances to the regional tournament at Alabama State University Monday where it will face Talladega (17-9) at noon.

Beauregard sees its season end at 11-12.

As his team readies for its next challenge, Pittman was adamant about his desire to take the raucous Demopolis student section with him.

“That group right there is awesome,” Pittman said of the Demopolis students. “I’m going to talk to (Demopolis superintendent Dr. Al Griffin) in the morning. That group is the one I want on the bus supporting Demopolis Lady Tigers basketball.”