Lady Wildcats rout Leeds to advance to championship

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 24, 2006

The Sumter County Lady Wildcats didn’t miss that many shots in their Regional Semifinal against Leeds. But when they did, it didn’t much matter.

Sumter grabbed 20 offensive rebounds against the Lady Green Wave, creating an avalanche of second- and third-chance opportunities that resulted in a 55-38 rout. The Lady Wildcats advance to face Midfield, 49-16 winners over T.R. Miller, for the right to go to Birmingham.

“They hit the boards because they know they can get a shot,” Sumter head coach Alonzo Sledge said with a smile. “They have more energy (on the offensive glass) because they know they can put it back up and score.”

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Tenesia Ruffin led the Lady Wildcats by registering a double-double, scoring 21 points and pulling down 11 rebounds, 8 of them offensive.

Six of Ruffin’s points came in a 12-4 game-ending run that sealed the Lady Wildcat victory. After a Carmen McCoy basket for Leeds had cut a one-time 13-point Sumter lead to 9 with 5:09 to play, Ruffin rebounded a missed free throw and scored. Crystal Brown added two more with 3:01 to play, and after Leeds two free throws back-to-back layups by Ruffin and Rekina Crawford extended the lead to 51-36 with 1:27 and put the game beyond all doubt.

The contest looked like anything but a blowout in a back-and-forth first half that saw five lead changes and four ties. Sumter finally took control with a basket by Tiffany Love and two by Brown over the half’s final four minutes that turned a 19-17 deficit into a 23-20 lead at the break.

The Lady Wildcats would not trail again. With 1:51 left in the third quarter back-to-back offensive rebounds by Brown and Porsha Johnson led to a Crawford score, sparking an 8-0 period-ending run that stretched the Sumter lead to 11.

Leeds would come no closer than 9 the rest of the way.

Ruffin was joined in double figures by Brown and Crawford, who finished with 14 points each. Kanisha Ward scored 4 and Love 2 to round out the Sumter County scoring.

Sledge said that his team came out perhaps a little intimidated by the taller Lady Green Wave, but grew in confidence as the game progressed.

“At the beginning of the game our girls were uptight,” he said “but once they got out there and started playing, they were fine. We’ve peaked at the end of the season. I told them ‘Just get me to Mobile.” I know some of even our fans didn’t expect us to get this far.”