Going To The Ship

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 2, 2004

MOBILE — After six unsuccessful tries the 25-4 Demopolis High Lady Tigers earned their ticket to Birmingham Saturday as they knocked off the Andalusia Lady Bulldogs 42-37 in the Southwest Regional championship game.

“We came to Mobile with the belief that this was our year to go to the next level,” Lady Tigers head coach Tony Pittman said.

The Lady Tigers rode into Mobile an underrated and often overlooked threat. But they rode out of Mobile a winner on the back of a defense that is without a doubt one of the top four in the state of Alabama.

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Without their colorfully loud student body on hand Saturday, the 21-7 Lady Bulldogs were left powerless against the Lady Tigers defense, shooting 17-of-49

for 34 percent from the field and 0-for-3 from behind the arch.

Offensively the Lady Tigers hit 14-of-37 for 38 percent from the floor and 12-of-25 for 48 percent from the line, but it was their defense that sent the Lady Bulldogs home with the Mobile blues. The Lady Tigers collected 10 team steals, five team blocks and 21 defensive rebounds on the night.

But Saturday’s victory was by no means easy for the Lady Tigers. Had the Lady Tigers been able to make more than 38 percent of their shots the Lady Bulldogs would not have been much of a problem, but as it was the game could have gone either way in the end.

Saturday’s game could best be described as an emotional roller coaster as both teams witnessed five different lead changes.

The Lady Tigers led by one at the half but soon found themselves in trouble as the third period got under way. Nothing seemed to be clicking for the Lady Tigers as they could only muster eight points in the period. Pittman then went to his bench, replacing 6’1″ sophomore Kelly Johnson with 5’4″ junior Daphne Reid.

Reid’s arrival was just the spark that the lady Tigers needed as they went on a 9-0 run to increase their lead to 38-29 with 3:21 left. Along with her strong defensive play in the fourth period, Reid also collected four points, hitting 1-of-2 from the line and a much needed field goal that ignited the Lady Tigers.

“Daphne Reid, bless her heart. She’s not the biggest player by any means, but when I need a player that is going to give me everything they’ve got I look to her,” Pittman said.

Leading the way for the Lady tigers was Class 4A Southwest Regional All-Tournament MVP Gabrielle Essex with 13 points, seven rebounds, one block and four steals.

With the win the Lady Tigers advance to Birmingham for the ASHAA Class 4A Final Four, where they will face off with Madison County on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the Jefferson Civic Center.