Lady Tigers off to Final Four

Published 10:00 pm Friday, February 20, 2009

MONTGOMERY – Sunshine (23-4) received double-digit point contributions from three players en route to a 59-33 win in the AHSAA Class 1A girls’ central region championship Friday night at Alabama State University.

“If you are going to be successful and win the big ball game, you have to play as a team. We have to do it as a team,” Sunshine head coach Phillip Wagner said. “We did that tonight.”

The Lady Tigers scored the opening basket on a Lacresha Rainer layup just 12 seconds into the game and never lost the lead.

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“It just made me feel great that I could play good in the game to help us get to Birmingham,” Rainer, who finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, said.

Deborah Lewis finished the night with 10 points, including a 3-for-5 night from three-point territory. Lewis earned all-tournament honors for her play. Shafontaye Myers poured in 26 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished four assists to lead Sunshine. She rounded out the trip to Montgomery by earning the Most Valuable Player distinction.

“Everybody clicked. Everybody wanted it. Everybody had heart,” Myers said of her team’s effort in picking up its fourth win of the year over Akron. “Everybody was a leader.”

Sunshine shot 45.3 percent from the floor in the game, a marked improvement over the 21.9 percent it put up in Wednesday night opening-round game against Donoho.

“I knew they were going to be a little nervous,” Wagner said of his players. “I talked to them after Donoho and told them we just had to stay focused.”

By the end of the first quarter, Sunshine held a 19-13 lead. The Lady Tigers opened up the attack in the second when they outran Akron to the tune of a 14-4 advantage, carrying a 33-17 lead into the break.

“I think we were more patient tonight,” Myers said. “We had more heart. We were very hungry. We wanted it and we knew what we had to do to get it.”

Things worsened for Akron in the third period when Sunshine embarked on an 18-5 run to stretch the lead to 51-22, making the game a matter of running out the fourth quarter clock.

“I’m just proud of the team. We worked hard, play hard,” Lewis said. “This is what we’ve been waiting for.”

Sunshine, who last reached the state semi-finals in 2000, fell in Montgomery’s regionals four consecutive years before punching its ticket to Birmingham Friday night.

“We’ve been here five years in a row,” Wagner said of the regular trips his team has made to the Acadome. “I don’t think there’s too much difference between Birmingham and here as far as pressure.”

Sunshine will face Hazelwood in the state semi-finals Tuesday.