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Alcovy basketball squads advance to Class AAAA Sweet 16

AHS girls #10

AHS girls #10

COVINGTON -- Both Alcovy basketball squads took care of the visitors from Clayton County to advance to the Sweet 16 round of the Class AAAA playoffs. The Lady Tigers beat Mundy's Mill 60-46 with the boys eliminating Forest Park 78-65 on Friday.

Even though Alcovy led after each quarter, it was far from smooth sailing until the final quarter.

Through Mundy's Mill's physical style of play, the visiting team forced its will upon Alcovy. The home team turned the ball over, keeping the game close.

"It was something that we were prepared for. I watched a lot of film and saw that," said Alcovy head coach Kidada Holtzclaw. "Sometimes that happens and those are the things you have to live with."

While Mundy's Mill kept the game close by forcing 23 turnovers, Alcovy kept Mundy's Mill from getting a lead with rebounds. Alcovy outrebounded Mundy's Mill 32 to 21.

"It wasn't a lack of effort or laziness; our kids have been going hard and they want to win. Those are the ones you can live with," Holtzclaw said.

Besides turnovers, the other thing Alcovy had a hard time stopping was Mundy's Mill's Brianna McQueen who led all scorers with 25 points. While Alcovy could not stop McQueen, they were able to put various defenders on her which ended up slowing her down, especially in the fourth period. Without having McQueen score at will, Alcovy was able to slowly extend its lead. With three minutes left, Alcovy led 54-43 before ending the game with a 14-point win.

"Our game plan was to go in there and let our best defenders guard her. We switched off, we went with Sorrells a little bit, we went with Kate Palo a little bit, we tried to work Gabby in there. They're three of my better defenders. Just knowing that she makes that team go, we did a good job of containing her as much as possible," Holtzclaw said.

"I thought our kids did a fine job of focusing on a very good player. She's averaging 20-something points a game and she was Player of the Year in that region (4-AAAA). She didn't score 30, she didn't score 40. I'm pretty excited about what we were able to do and that we came out victorious."

Pacing Alcovy on the scoreboard was junior Kaci Palo with 16 points while Ashley Williams, Kate Palo and Meagan Tucker each scored 12.

"Kaci stepped up. She's been stepping up the last couple of weeks. She's been getting open looks and has been focusing on what she does best, which is shoot the ball," Holtzclaw said of Kaci Palo.

Alcovy will travel to Warner Robins, which beat Effingham County 56-48, on Tuesday to play in the second round.

The boys game was a game of two halves and two styles. In the first half, Forest Park was able to take advantage of Alcovy by outrebounding and forcing more turnovers. This allowed the Wildcats to force Alcovy to play their style of slow, methodical play. By being able to pass the ball around and look for open shots, Forest Park was able to take a 32-28 lead. Helping the Wildcats was their 3-point shooting, where they were 6-for-13.

"We hadn't attacked the press the way we talked about in practice," said Alcovy boys head coach Eugene Brown. "We had to refresh their memory and remind them what we had planned."

The Tigers were able to make the adjustments they needed during halftime. Alcovy came out forcing the speed of play that suited them while forcing Forest Park to turn the ball over. The end result was Alcovy scoring the first six points to take a 34-32 lead on their way to a 54-40 lead after three quarters of play.

The other thing that changed was Forest Park not making the 3-pointers like they were. After making 46 percent from beyond the arc, they were 1-for-8, 12 percent, in the second half.

One thing that didn't change was the fouls the Tigers were committing. Forest Park took 24 free-throws where they made 15 of them for 63 percent. The Tigers made 62 percent of their free throws going 8-for-13.

"They have to make adjustments to the officials. Particularly in the state tournament, they don't let you have as much contact as they might let you have in the regular season. You can tell guys that but until they see it they don't realize it," said Brown. "You have to make sure you play defense with your feet and not your hands."

Alcovy's Michael Tucker led all scorers with 28 points with Forest Park's Branden Williams pacing the Wildcats with 16 points. Also scoring in double-digits, 10 points each, for Forest Park were Lemuel Fuller and Jordan Patton.

Following Tucker in scoring for Alcovy were Deondre Butler (16), Devon Edwards (10) and Justin Wallace (10).

"He's playing really well offensively. He had a couple of lapses on defense but he played really hard and is working really hard. He's so much more improved than he was last year," said Brown of Tucker.

The Tigers will play the winner of the Bainbridge/Effingham County game on Wednesday.