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AHSAA Regionals: BTW, MA, Catholic boys,girls advance

Montgomery Academy center Caroline Kirkham shoots over Green County’s La’Tarius Montgomery in Saturday’s win in the Class 3A Central Regional semis. (Photo by Drew Gayle)

By Tim Gayle
RRS Correspondent

(February 19, 2017)

The Greene County girls were struggling to find any rhythm from their perimeter shooters in warmups. The Montgomery Academy girls, meanwhile, were trying to figure out how to run their offense without point guard Tara Katz.

As a result, both teams struggled to find any offensive spark in the first half of Saturday’s 3A Central Regional. The Eagles found the answer first, using a 12-0 run late in the third quarter to put away the Tigers 54-37 at Alabama State’s Dunn-Oliver Acadome.

“Without Katz here, we put in more pressure packages that we had to get used to,” Montgomery Academy coach Barry Fencher said. “Coming from our gym to this big 94-foot floor, it took us a little while to get adjusted.”

As a result, the first four minutes featured just one transitional basket from Kayla White and a pair of short jumpers in the paint from center Caroline Kirkham.

“The first quarter, the court was really big,” White said. “By the end, it felt like a high school court. I was exhausted. I didn’t know how I was going to make it.”

Montgomery Academy (27-4) will face Midfield, a 76-73 winner over Central-Coosa, in the regional final on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. The winner will advance to the state tournament in Birmingham and will play the Locust Fork-Lauderdale County winner on Feb. 28 at 9 a.m.

“We kind of figured this is where we’d meet (Midfield),” Fencher said. “I noticed against Coosa, they did a lot of dribble penetration. We’ve got to definitely cut down on their dribble penetration.”

Greene County (6-20), meanwhile, also figured out their perimeter struggles, but not before missing its first nine 3-point attempts. By then, the Tigers were in a hole.

“It definitely puts you behind because not only are you not making it but you’re losing a little confidence,” Greene County coach Kendra Payne said. “We were really playing the game plan they gave us. They stopped the penetration and forced us to shoot outside shots. We kind of forgot to drive a little bit.”

By late in the second half, several transition baskets by White and Jade Brooks, who each finished with 16 points, turned the game into a 20-point rout. When the easy basket wasn’t there, the Eagles went inside to Kirkham, who finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds and four steals.

“’Kirk’ is a beast,” White said. “I’d rather pass it to ‘Kirk’ than get a layup. I like getting assists to ‘Kirk’ because I know she’s going to dominate.”

The junior’s 17 points are just shy of her career high of 20 for a three-year starter not accustomed to scoring.

“I’m not a big scorer,” she insisted. “Like last year, four points was my average.”

On this particular night, she was too much for the Tigers to handle.

“I think the biggest problem with that is not necessarily when she had the ball, but she was very active without the ball,” Payne said. “When they’d drive, she’d back us out of the lane. We weren’t aggressive enough to battle with her. And if they missed a shot, she was there to get the rebound. She’s a big body and she likes to work. Put those two together, it makes it very difficult.”

Te’Aira Wilson led the Tigers with 16 points.

“It was rough,” Wilson said, “but coming to Montgomery and playing against a team that was in the championship last year, I’m happy for us. Everyone doubted us but we showed we can do it. We could’ve beaten that team if we didn’t fall behind in the first half.”

Instead, it will be Midfield that will face that challenge on Wednesday and the Patriots will face a team that will have all of its weapons as Katz returns to the lineup after missing the last two games.

“When I get Tara back, I’ll have Jade on the wing, Kayla is our slasher and we have our post game going with ‘Kirk,’” Fencher said. “We’re a complete team with the post game.”

BTW-Magnet reaches regional final for first time

The Booker T. Washington Magnet basketball program has been around a few years.

It finally has a chance to do something never done before.

The Lady Yellow Jackets (12-7) polished off Andalusia to advance to the Class 4A South Regional final for the first time in school history. They will play Montgomery Catholic in a rematch of the area tournament final.

Katerra Blanding led BTW with 16 points and 18 rebounds while Paige Townes added another double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

BTW and Catholic will play on Wednesday at 9 a.m. in Dothan.

Catholic girls move into regional finals

Montgomery Catholic Lady Knights got 20 points from Jessie Clark along with 10 points from Aleigha Walden to defeat Monroe County, 47-33.

The win set a school record of 26 victories in girls basketball.

The Knights shot 50 percent from thef ield on 21-of-42 attempts and forced 22 turnovers against the Tigers.

Catholic boys join girls in regional finals

The Knights improved to 21-9 with a 44-43 victory over Escambia County on Saturday to advance to the 4A South regional final where they will face Monroe County on Wednesday in Dothan.

B.J. Barker scored 18 points and hit key free throws late to ice the win for Catholic.


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