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Sunshine girl advances to finals

It took Shafontaye Myers a while to find her rhythm Thursday night, but once she did, she roasted A.L. Johnson for 40 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists while pushing top-seeded host Sunshine to an 83-41 win in the first round of the AHSAA, Class 1A Area 5 tournament.

Sunshine took the early advantage as Myers laid back and facilitated the offense, taking few shots and watching the bulk of her three-point opportunities clank off the iron.

As she worked to get into the flow of the game, Johnquesha Childs and Alexis Lewis filled the scoring void for the Lady Tigers and ALJ sophomore Ashley Edwards stepped in to take her share of the spotlight, scoring 15 points in the second quarter to edge Myers for the scoring lead at intermission.

“She can score whenever she wants,” A.L. Johnson assistant coach Danielle Sanders said of Edwards before offering a criticism of her young point guard, “but she’s got to get the whole team involved.”

Despite winning the second frame 17-15, the Lady Eagles went into the locker room down 37-23. ALJ got as close as 13 before Myers and Lady Tigers erupted.

Myers drained a three on three consecutive trips to spark a 28-6 Sunshine run and put the contest out of reach.

“They didn’t come into the game with confidence at all,” Sanders said. “Big girls didn’t rebound.”

While the team may not have entered with confidence, they seemed to be on the verge of developing it before Myers found her previously-absent rhythm. Once she did, the senior Alabama commit caught fire, connecting on eight treys in the game and scoring 26 of her 40 points after halftime.

“Tonight showed people what type of ballplayer (Myers) is,” Sunshine head coach Philip Wagner said. “That’s another thing we’ve worked on this summer was Taye trying to get her teammates involved.”

Myers proved effective in that regard as two other Lady Tigers scored in double figures and another — Lacresha Rainer — narrowly missed the mark with eight points.

“That’s what hurt us in the playoffs last year,” Wagner said. “We had to depend on Taye too much.”

Thursday night, Sunshine got 12 points each from Lewis and Childs. Lewis, an eighth-grader, also grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked two shots in the win.

“Alexis’ mother was a good ballplayer. Her mother played on the B team that I coached when we didn’t have a girls team,” Wagner said. “In two years, this will be Alexis’ team.”

Edwards led A.L. Johnson with 16 points while Porsha Steele emerged to score 15 in the effort.

“Once (Steele) digs deep and feels it, then she goes with the flow,” Sanders said.

The loss finishes an A.L. Johnson campaign that saw a young Lady Eagles team flash its potential while struggling in area play.

“We had two seniors, the rest of them were young,” Sanders said. “We’ll just go home, work hard and get ready for next season. I expect them to stay positive.”

For Sunshine, the run continues as the win locked up a sub-regional berth and put the Lady Tigers in Saturday’s Area 5 championship game with Linden.

“We’re going to work on our defense,” Wagner said. “We played a pretty close game down in Linden. We’re going to have to stop (Linden’s trio of Terrica Craig, Latice Glover and Kileema Rogers). We’re going to run them and we’ll see who falls out first.”