Lady Tigers fall to Central-Tuscaloosa in Class 5A Central Regional

MONTGOMERY — Despite an early lead, Demopolis found itself trailing by double digits for most of the game Monday en route to a 56-47 loss to Central-Tuscaloosa in the Class 5A Central Regional.

With a 9 a.m. tip at the Dunn-Oliver Acadome on the campus of Alabama State University, the Lady Tigers took a quick 4-0 lead on a Courtney Hill jumper and an Ivery Moore layup. Central fired back quickly with buckets from TraNiya Pitts and Jada Prewitt. The back-and-forth opening frame saw Central take its first lead on a Latasha Maddix shot with 3:19 to go. The see-saw nature of the period prevailed until the final second when Erica Bennett drained a three from the top of the key off a DeeDee White assist to beat the buzzer and put Demopolis up 13-12.

The Lady Tigers carried that momentum in the second frame when Bennett hit another triple just 13 seconds into the quarter. A three from Hill and a jumper from Bennett later stretched the Demopolis lead to 21-15 with 5:23 to go in the half. Then Central made its defensive adjustments.

“They were shading toward the shooters and putting pressure on the point guards and it made it difficult for us to get into our offensive sets,” Demopolis coach Tony Pittman said of the Central defensive effort.

With Ivery Moore on the bench in early foul trouble, the Lady Falcons embarked upon a 10-0 run in the final 5:23 of the second quarter to take a 25-21 lead into the locker room.

Central would scarcely look back from there.

With Moore out, Central dominated the boards, out-rebounding Demopolis 20-7 in the first half. That total included 12 offensive rebounds in the game’s first 16 minutes.

“Ivery getting in foul trouble was big because she was a big part of what we were going to try to do as far as attacking them offensively. We started out doing a great job but just picked up some cheap fouls,” Pittman said of the impact Moore’s three first half fouls had on the Lady Tigers’ game plan. “Samantha (Williams) came in and did well defensively, but coming in to replace a senior who has been playing for four years, that’s big. But she played great minutes though.”

Antiyocka Howard took over in the third quarter, tallying eight points in the frame and helping drive her team to a 45-33 lead over Demopolis by the end of three. The offensive onslaught continued for Central early in the fourth quarter as Prewitt and Pitts connected on shots to open the lead to 15 points, the largest lead of the contest for the Lady Falcons.

Demopolis began chipping away at the lead with 5:14 to go when Moore scored off a White assist to cut it to 12 and force a Central timeout. Demopolis then got a Bennett layup to move the deficit to 49-39.

With 2:51 to play, Moore connected on a bucket and cashed in the the and-1 opportunity to make it 51-42. Moore then made two free throws with 2:01 to play to set it at 51-44. Central stretched the lead back up to 10 before Keyjana Waller drained a three off a Bennett assist with 42.2 to go, cutting it to 54-47 in favor of Central. Demopolis, however, could get no closer as Moore fouled out with 28 seconds remaining.

Howard topped all scorers with 24 points while Pitts added 13 for Central. Moore paced Demopolis with 19 points while Bennett added 10 and Hill finished with nine.

The loss caps the Lady Tigers season at 23-4, punctuating the career of the senior quartet of Moore, Hill, White and Bennett.

“They’ve been huge. Four winning seasons. Four trips to the playoffs. You can’t ask for anything better than what they’ve done. They’ve done a good job of leading this basketball team every year,” Pittman said of his senior class, which has led its team to a 46-12 record over the last two seasons.

The Lady Tigers will return a young core next year highlighted by Shakesaney Bell and Sylvia Clayton, who each missed the closing weeks of this season with ACL injuries.

“It’s hard to say right now but the group that is returning, they’re going to work hard,” Pittman said of the expectations he has for his team as it moves to a new area that includes Central-Tuscaloosa and Sumter Central. “We’ve got some work to do offensively as well as defensively because they’re young. They’ve been playing behind seniors for four years. They’ve got some big minutes, but the summer will make a big difference. We’ll see.”