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No. 6 MMI girls claim area crown

Third-seeded Warrior’s bid for a second straight upset at the girls’ AISA Class A West Area IV tournament fell short Saturday, as Felicia Sprott and the sixth-ranked MMI Lady Tigers turned the Lady Braves away 48-36.

After trailing 18-5 with 5:22 remaining in the second quarter, Warrior chipped away at the MMI lead and came within four points, 22-18, on a Keshara Moore three with 6:14 to play in the third quarter. But MMI responded with eight straight points to re-establish their double-digit lead and Warrior would not come closer than eight the rest of the way.

As usual, the Lady Tigers were led by Sprott. The Lady Braves had no answer for the 6-3 senior center as she racked up a game-high 26 points.

“She stepped up,” said MMI head coach Dr. Michelle Ivey, “but she has to. She’s who we run our offense through and she’s who we’ll run it through until she graduates.”

Warrior had upset second-seeded Sumter Friday afternoon thanks in large part to a huge 11-point first quarter from the dynamic Moore. But against MMI the Lady Braves scored only five first-quarter points, while Sprott scored the game’s first seven points and 11 of MMI’s 12 in the period.

Consecutive baskets from Emily Easley gave MMI a 13-point lead early in the second quarter before an Ava Quinney basket and six straight points from Moore cut the lead to 18-13 with 1:35 to play in the half.

After a Sprott basket pushed the MMI edge to seven at the break, WA’s Tricia Langham scored the third quarter’s first points and Moore drained her second three to bring Warrior within four. But the Lady Tigers pushed the lead back out to 30-22 at the end of the third quarter and 37-24 on a Yolanda Kelley free throw with 4:48 to play in the game.

One final surge capped by a pair of Moore free throws brought Warrior within eight at 42-34 with 2:26 left, but Sprott answered again less than 20 seconds later to ice the game.

Ivey gave Warrior credit for a spirited effort (neither of the two teams’ regular season meetings were closer than 18 points) but expected the smaller Lady Braves would struggle with her big senior.

“We knew that Warrior didn’t have a good way to deal with her,” she said. “I told my girls, if Felicia scores every point we get and we win, then that’s what we need to do.”

Sprott’s 26 points were followed for MMI by Kelley with 8, Easley with 7, Samantha Suttles with 5, and Arielle Cochran with 2.

Moore had her second consecutive 20-point game for Warrior with 22 points. Quinney finished with 6, Langham with 4, Ashley Clements with 2, and Porsha Knox with 2.

MMI’s victory sets up a Regional matchup next week with Crenshaw Academy. Despite the loss, Warrior also advances to Regionals to face Lakeside.

Sprott was named Tournament MVP, while Suttles, Langham, Moore, Sumter Academy’s Mallory Fox, Southern Academy’s Libba McClendon, and WAP’s Julia Colgrove were each named to the All-Tournament team.