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Sunshine to meet Akron in regionals

Sunshine (held off a steady attack from Donoho Wednesday night to advance to the AHSAA Class 1A Regional Finals with a 50-42 win.

The Lady Tigers opened the game on a tear, posting 19 first quarter points. The offense slowed significantly in the middle of the game as Sunshine managed only 19 points total during the second and third quarters to carry a 38-29 lead into the fourth frame.

“The ball just wouldn’t fall. I’ve been telling them to put the ball high on the glass,” Sunshine head coach Phillip Wagner said. “We had a lot of easy shots, but they just wouldn’t fall.”

The Lady Tigers watched as Donoho mounted a 10-4 rally and cut the deficit to three when a Kelsy Crawford free throw made the score 42-39 with only 3:39 left on the game clock.

“A little fatigue set in then and then I told them that we were going to have to go out and get a rebound if we really wanted (to win the game).”

The Lady Tigers stretched the lead back out with 2:58 to go when Shafontaye Myers stroked a pair of free throws to put the game at 44-39. From there, Sunshine played defense and worked the ball into the hands of Myers, who went 8-for-8 from the charity stripe in the game’s final two minutes to ice the win.

She finished the game with 34 points, including going a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line.

“Taye still had 30-something points, but she missed a lot of easy shots,” Wagner said of the uncharacteristic shooting woes that saw his team shoot a paltry 21.9 percent from the field.

Sunshine’s success came primarily on the glass as the Lady Tigers out-rebounded Donoho 56-35 in the game.

Wagner said rebounding will be crucial if Sunshine is to win Friday’s regional final against Akron and advance to Birmingham.

“If we stand around and let (Akron) rebound, it’s going to be a long night,” Wagner said. Deborah Lewis led the Lady Tigers on the glass Wednesday, grabbing 11 boards while Shanquila Carter plucked 10. Tia Scott finished with nine rebounds. Myers had eight while Lacresha Rainer clutched seven and Marie McMillian finished with six.

Sunshine also won the turnover battle, losing the ball only seven times as opposed to Donoho’s 17 cough-ups.

“The only team standing between us and Birmingham is Akron,” Wagner, whose team fell to St. Jude in the 2008 regional finals, said. “Two Hale County schools. It says a lot for Hale County.”

The teams have met three times this season, twice as part of a home-and-home series and once in the annual Hale County Tournament. Sunshine has won each of those games.

“It’s hard to beat a team four times in one season,” Wagner said. Sunshine will try to do just that Friday in a game that is scheduled for a 3:40 p.m. tip.