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Demopolis wins area 39-23

On Jan. 6, Demopolis turned in one of their best defensive performances of the season to defeat Thomasville 35-27. Facing Thomasville again Saturday night for the 4A Area 5 championship, they turned in one even better.

Demopolis held the visiting Lady Tigers without a field goal for more than two full quarters, coasting to a 39-23 victory and another area championship. The win is Demopolis’s tenth in a row and earns them a home game in Thursday’s sub-regional round, when the Lady Tigers will take on Area 1 runner-up Escambia County, 72-48 losers Saturday to UMS-Wright.

“Anytime you hold a team to seven second-half points, you’ve got to be pretty happy as a coach,” said Demopolis head coach Tony Pittman. “When we fell behind in the first quarter, we had to go back to what wins ball games for us, and that’s our defense.”

Demopolis and Thomasville had split their regular season meetings, and the visitors looked to be heading for a second upset of the state’s No. 7 4A team when they took an 11-2 lead with 1:32 remaining in the first quarter.

But from that point it was all Demopolis. Forward Kierra Plaskett and center Kelli Johnson combined for eight points in a four-minute span that cut the Thomasville lead to 13-11 with 5:19 left in the first half.

Thomasville scored on their next possession to push the lead back to 15-11, but the awakened Demopolis defense would not allow the visitors another field goal until only 1:05 remained in the game. The Thomasville drought spanned 19 minutes and 37 seconds, more than 60 percent of the entire game, during which all the Thomasville offense mustered was five free throws.

While Demopolis dominated on the defensive end, Lady Tigers senior forward Katerria Johnson was doing the same on the offensive end. Johnson sat out much of the first half after picking up two early fouls, but returned late in the second quarter to hit three key baskets, the last coming with 10 seconds left in the half to give Demopolis a 23-16 halftime lead.

Johnson picked up right where she left off after the break, scoring the Lady Tigers’ first two baskets of the half and adding a free throw with 4:13 left in the third quarter to put Demopolis up 28-16. Four points in the period’s final two minutes from Shawnese Armstead helped put the game well out of reach as Demopolis entered the final period with a commanding 35-17 lead.

Katerria Johnson finished with a game-high 11 points and was named Tournament MVP. She was followed by Armstead with 10 points and Kelli Johnson with 7 points, both of whom were also named to the All-Tournament team. Plaskett’s 4 points, Jasmine Simmons’ 4, Krystal Walker’s 2, and Shay Smith’s 1 rounded out the Demopolis scoring.

Thomasville will travel to take on No. 6 UMS-Wright Thursday while Demopolis hosts Escambia County. Pittman admitted he knows very little about the Lady Blue Devils, but does know DHS will be have to be on top of their game.

“They’re going to be pretty good or they wouldn’t still be in the tournament,” he says. “But we’re not worried about other teams. Our preparation is the same. If we come prepared and mentally ready, we’ll come out on top.”

The win improved Demopolis’s overall record to 19-4.