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LHS advances in South Region

MOBILE — Linden (18-6) fended off a game J.F. Shields squad Thursday for a 53-49 win and the right to advance to the South Regional finals Saturday.

The Patriots overcame a shaky first quarter in which the teams tussled to a 7-7 tie to unleash a three-point barrage in the second period and take a firm advantage. In a span of less than a minute, the Patriots embarked on a 9-0 run that featured treys from a trio of shooters to open up its largest lead of the game.

With 3.7 seconds remaining in the second quarter, J.F. Shields connected on a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 25-19 before Linden’s Anthony Robinson made the shot of the day, connecting on a buzzer-beater from three-quarter court to up the LHS lead to 28-19.

“We make those type of shots,” Linden head coach Roosevelt Moore said. “I wanted him to take that shot at the end of the first quarter when we had a little bit better of a look but he didn’t. In the second quarter he took the tougher shot and made that one.”

In the third quarter, Linden’s defense struggled to slow the larger Panther squad, getting outpaced 17-11 in the period. With six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Linden’s lead completely evaporated as Shields launched a run to overcome the Pats’ advantage and post a 40-39 lead of its own.

But Linden’s press defense answered the call, providing the spark to take the lead back. Shauka Reese connected on the last of his three triples with 3:30 to play to aid the effort.

Reese came up big again just over three minutes later when he drained a pair of charity shots with 26 seconds to go to put the game away.

As important as Reese’s team-high 20 points were for the Patriots, it was the Linden defense that dictated the pace of the game, forcing 16 turnovers including 10 steals.

“That’s generally what we do from a defensive perspective is create a lot of turnovers,” Moore said.

Linden ramped up its defense in the fourth quarter thanks in large part to a smaller, quicker lineup.

“In the fourth quarter I had to go small,” Moore said. “We felt like we needed a little more quickness against that size.”

As the game wore on, Linden all but abandoned jump shots in favor of drives, helping it to force Shields to commit 19 fouls in the contest.

“They gave us the three ball early and we took it,” Moore said. “Once they eliminated that from us, I told (Linden players) we needed to get to the basket and we needed to finish,” Moore said. Linden shot a total of 23 free throws in the game as compared to 11 by Shields.

Robinson contributed 11 points to go along with Reese’s 11 to pace the Patriots. Shields’ Jeterious Johnson led all scorers with 21.

Linden will play again Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Mitchell Center on the campus of the University of South Alabama when it challenges McIntosh for the South Regional title and the right to advance to the Final 48 in Birmingham.