The Call: Key timeout helped lead Lady Tigers to first title game

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 5, 2004

With their 52-47 Final Four victory over the Madison County Lady Tigers Wednesday night, the Demopolis High Lady Tigers have done what no other team in DHS history has been able to accomplish.

But had it not been for one extremely important timeout and one players leadership the DHS Lady Tigers would have walked straight into a Madison County ambush that was prepared to leave none alive.

After almost three periods of complete domination over the Madison County Lady Tiger in Wednesday nights Class 4A Final Four pairing, trouble began to brew unknowingly beneath the surface for the Demopolis High Lady Tigers.

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The DHS Lady Tigers had dominated the first half with one of their best defensive performances this season and by the half had full control of the game with a 30-19 lead. But in the third period the game began to shift ever so slightly. Such a slight shift in fact, that it went undetected by the Lady Tigers.

In the third period the Lady Tigers were 4-of-8 (50 percent) from the floor, 1-of-2 (50 percent) from the line and 0-for-1 from three-point land, while the Madison County Lady Tigers were 7-of-20 (35 percent) from the floor, 1-of-7 from three-point land and 3-of-5 (60 percent) from the line.

The DHS Lady Tigers stats may not indicate the shift either, but while the Lady Tigers shot 50 percent from the floor, they also only took nine shots while Madison County took 27 shots from the floor. The Madison County bullets were flying, but DHS could not return fire.

The Lady Tigers also collected four turnovers in the third period to match their first half total along with five personal fouls. Hidden statistic that went unknown to the Lady Tigers, like land mines hidden among the brush.

The Lady Tigers continued to lead in the third period, but the question was who were they really leading and where?

With 1:20 left in the third period the Lady Tigers held a 37-34 lead, but before the buzzer sounded Madison County would score three points, while the Lady Tigers would only collect two points and the once 11-point lead had been cut to within two points at 39-37.

In the first play of the fourth period, Madison County’s Jessie Harless hit a eight-foot jumper that tied the game at 39-39, and DHS head coach Tony Pittman quickly noticed that something was amiss and called timeout. The timeout was the key coaching call of the night for Pittman and was probably what saved the Lady Tigers from stepping any further into Madison County’s booby-trap.

But damage had been done and the Lady Tigers had taken some hits. The only thing left to do was focus all attention on getting every player out alive. And when General Pittman needs a dedicated soldier that he knows will get the job done, he calls on Gabrielle Essex.

Madison County dropped one last grenade on the Lady Tigers as Samantha White hit from three-point land to make a 42-43 game and then was sent to the line where she tied things up at 43-43. Pittman called for another timeout and reiterated the seriousness of the situation to his soldiers.

And Essex responded like a true leader, ordering her platoon to fight back with extreme prejudice. Kelli Johnson banked one off the glass to give the Lady Tigers a 45-43 lead, but Madison County leading scorer Ashley Green responded hitting one from six feet out to make it a 45-45 game.

Essex, who collected 25 points on the night, then took matters into her own hands and along with sophomore Katerria Johnson (nine points on the night) collected 10 points in the last two minutes of play to walk away with the 52-47 victory.

It was one of the Lady Tigers’ smartest played games this season, a complete team effort.