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Tigers survive for another day

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
It was hardly the kind of performance that would net the T.R. Miller Tigers many style points. Then again, from here on out it is not style which is important.
"It's all about survival," T.R. Miller coach Rob Atkinson said.
The Tigers lived to see another day when they rallied for a 40-36 win over the Straughn Tigers in Friday's opening round of the Class 3A Area 1 Tournament held at Clarke County.
T.R. Miller (17-8) overcame a sluggish start that saw it fall behind a dozen points in the opening quarter. It was a similar pattern to the last regular season meeting between the teams where T.R. Miller wiped out a 12-point deficit in a 58-54 victory.
"This game was a much slower pace than the last time we played. Straughn did a good job of controlling the tempo," Atkinson said.
T.R. Miller managed just a lone three-pointer by Tye Walker in the first six minutes of the game. During that time Straughn built a lead that reached 15-3 after two free throws by Zack Hammett.
While T.R. Miller's offense never did click on all cylinders during the game, its defense opened the door for the comeback. After the Tigers' deficit hit its game high margin, T.R. Miller allowed just three field goals and 10 total points over a 21-minute stretch.
Down 16-5 at the end of the first quarter and still down by double digits at 21-11 halfway through the second quarter, T.R. Miller made a move that wiped out the rest of the Straughn lead.
Field goals by Laine Lucas and Brandon Samuel triggered a 10-0 run that ended with a steal by Terrelle Brooks and a bucket by Damien Jackson that pulled T.R. Miller even at 21-21 with a minute left in the first half.
The pace of the game would then slow considerably. After Straughn's Sterling Driver hit a free throw with a minute left in the first half and put his team up 22-21 headed into halftime, neither team would score again for nearly five minutes.
T.R. Miller and Straughn combined for just nine total points in the third quarter. The dry spell finally ended when Gerald Banton scored off an assist from Walker. That hoop gave T.R. Miller its first lead of the game at 23-22.
The victorious Tigers took the lead for good in the final minute of the third quarter when a basket by Damien Jackson gave T.R.Miller a 27-25 lead.
Baskets by Lucas and Damien Jackson during the first three minutes of the fourth quarter extended that lead up to 31-25, a margin that turned out to be T.R. Miller's biggest lead of the game.
The Tigers helped secure their win by hitting seven of eight free throws down the stretch, which included four straight by Damien Jackson. Lucas also had a couple and ran his consecutive made free throw streak to 20 straight, a feat that began at Greenville a couple of weeks ago.
Yet perhaps the biggest play in the fourth quarter came with 31 seconds left and T.R. Miller up 36-32. Straughn had the ball and a chance to pull even closer, but a steal and layup by Brooks knocked the lead back up to six points.
T.R. Miller will take on the
See TIGERS Page 7
host, Clarke County, in Monday's 7 p.m. championship game. The teams split their two regular season meetings with each team winnign on their home court. Clarke County earned its championship game spot with a 71-38 win over W.S. Neal.
At Clarke County
Straughn 16 6 3 11 – 36
T.R. Miller 5 16 6 13 – 40
STRAUGHN (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) S. Driver 7-0-4-18; Hunter 2-0-1-5; Hammett 1-0-2-4; Carter 0-1-0-3; Huggins 1-0-1-3; Armstrong 1-0-0-2; Johnson 0-0-1-1 (Totals: 12-1-9-36)
T.R. MILLER (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) D. Jackson 3-2-5-17; Lucas 3-0-4-10; Banton 2-0-2-6; Ty. Walker 0-1-0-3; Brooks 1-0-0-2; Samuel 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 10-3-11-40)