Demopolis girls fall short despite late surge against Talladega

MONTGOMERY — Demopolis (23-8) saw its season come to an abrupt end Monday in the Central Regional Tournament with a 49-44 loss to Talladega.

“The kids fought hard. I felt like we gave a great effort, but we just weren’t able to overcome the deficit that we built to start the third quarter,” Demopolis coach Tony Pittman said. “That’s the character of this basketball team. As long as there is time on the clock, they’re going to fight. They’re going to give everything they have in their bodies to come back. I felt like we did that. We just came up short.”

Demopolis trailed by 12 heading into the fourth quarter before turning to its trademark pressure defense to get back in the game.

With 2:44 to play, Sylvia Clayton stole a Talladega pass and fed Ivery Moore for a drive that cut the deficit to 43-39. Moore made the ensuing And-1 opportunity at the charity stripe and narrowed her team’s gap to 43-40, forcing a Talladega timeout.

With 1:31 to play, Demopolis drew closer still when Moore connected on a drive off a DeeDee White assist to set Demopolis down 46-44.

However, a defense that forced turnover after turnover throughout the fourth quarter allowed Talladega to run nearly a minute off the game clock before Alexis Morgan cashed in on a Jada Reynolds dish to up the lead to 48-44.

T’Nigeria Wright all but sealed it with a steal with only 37 seconds left.

Talladega opened the game on a 7-0 run before a pair of first quarter treys from Courtney Hill got Demopolis back into the game. A 12-10 deficit after one quarter gave way to an evenly-contest second period that ended in disaster for Demopolis.

With 5.5 to go in the half, Nyesha Smiley drew a foul while taking a three-pointer. She connected on the first two free throw attempts to put her team up 20-17. Alexis McKinney then collapsed on the backside for a rebound and put-back of the missed free throw to stretch the lead to 22-17. She then drained the ensuing free throw for the 23-17 lead to cap the five-point Talladega trip.

“We dug ourselves a hole starting at the end of the second quarter. We had four mental breakdowns that cost us five points,” Pittman said. “Then we came out the second half and three defensive breakdowns pushed it up to 11 and we just couldn’t ever recover from that.”

The loss punctuates a 23-win season for Demopolis, which sees seniors Ebony Moore and Caleb Washington as the only players to leave the otherwise young team.

“There’s a lot to build on. I told our juniors and sophomores, ‘We fell two games short of our ultimate goal and that’s to play in the state tournament. Every day you’re working to get back to where you want to get to,’” Pittman said.

Ivery Moore led Demopolis with 19 points to go along with five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Hill added 10 points for DHS while Ebony Moore had 10 rebounds and six points.

Maya Buckhanon led Talladega with 17 points and nine rebounds. Gabreial Johnson had 12 points for Talladega.