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Lady Tigers in Final Four

FORT VALLEY -- In basketball, the name of the game is finding the bottom of the net.

The Lady Tigers did it but the boys didn't. That's why the Lady Tigers are heading to the Final Four at the Arena at Gwinnett Center while the boys ended their season.

The Alcovy girls (27-4), behind the play of their big three -- Ashley Williams, Meagan Tucker and Kate Palo -- set the pace of the game as they defeated Forest Park (23-7) while the boys (27-4) could never get on track, losing 84-62 to North Clayton (20-10) on Friday at Fort Valley State University.

The Lady Tigers, behind Tucker's shooting and Williams' dominate play at the boards, controlled much of the game. As Alcovy headed into the final quarter, the Lady Tigers held a dominating 19-point 39-20 lead.

Both Tucker and Williams had a double-double for the Lady Tigers. Tucker took care of things offensively, leading all scorers with 19 points while getting 10 rebounds. Williams, on the other hand, controlled the boards with 17 rebounds while scoring 11 points.

"Both of those kids are playing at a high level and doing the things that we need to help our team get to where we want to be. You can't say enough about our entire team who go out there night in and night out and give a great defensive effort," Alcovy head coach Kidada Holtzclaw said.

"Meagan has been a stellar leader for our team. She does a great job handling the ball under pressure. When people come out and need to shoot she wants the ball. When it comes down to crunch time she wants the ball. Out of all of our kids, she's a player that I think we can depend on to take care of the ball and get it where it needs to be."

But Alcovy's grip started to loosen in the fourth quarter as the Lady Tigers turned the ball over on four straight possessions, allowing the Lady Panthers to close the gap to 44-36 with 2:51 left in the game.

"A couple of our kids started playing a little timid. I think the people that we needed to step up found a way to do that. Once we called a timeout, we talked about if we really wanted it or not. I challenged those kids to continue to fight and play the way we played in the beginning of the game," said Holtzclaw.

Unable to get to within a two-possession game, Forest Park started fouling but the Lady Tigers responded by making their shots.

Forest Park's top shooter, Ashlee Cole, was held to 13 points, with most of those coming in the final period. Also scoring in double figures for the Lady Panthers were Raven Wynn (15) and Tamara Brewster (10).

"Our game plan was to take the head off the snake," Holtzclaw said. "We knew that Ashlee Cole is a great player. I'm pretty sure she's going on to play D-1 basketball next year and we knew she is the heart of the team. The last thing we talked about before we left the locker room to start this game was to cut the head off the snake with our defensive effort. I think we did that."

The Lady Tigers will play Miller Grove (23-4), who beat Rome (22-9) 67-38, in the semifinal game 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

"This is a dream come true for a lot of these young ladies," Holtzclaw said. "Nobody on our team, player-wise, has been in this position before. This is something that we set our sight on and we set a goal for."

The Alcovy boys did not have a bad game plan heading into their game. They knew what North Clayton was going to do. The problem was that there was nothing they could do to stop it.

"They did exactly what we thought they were going to do," Alcovy boys head coach Eugene Brown said. "We wanted them to play man ... and we wanted to play against the man. We just couldn't get a rhythm going. We missed a lot of easy shots early, then came back and gave up some easy shots.

"A few of the guys were nervous early. It might have been a little more than we could deal with early. They fought and we kept running the hurdles but we just couldn't get over them. We had the same wide open shots we've had all year but they wouldn't drop. We decided to attack the basket but we'd miss the layup. We did a lot of uncharacteristic things. You can't do that at this level."

While the Tigers had three players in double-digit scoringf, with Devon Edwards leading the way with 16 points, they could not get their usual fourth player to contribute as they had in the past.

"We never got that third and fourth guy going," Brown said. "We usually have four guys in double-figure scoring."

Also scoring in double figures for Alcovy were Deondre Butler (14) and Michael Tucker (11).

While the Tigers may have had a hard time scoring, North Clayton's Marcus Hunt did not. Hunt, who scored 20 points in the first half, finished the game with 34 points to lead all scorers.

"That Hunt guy is a pretty good player. We knew we had to stop him, but he just did things out there," Brown said. "He controlled the ball, had it on a string. Every time we ran somebody at him which was our plan to get it out of his hand, he found an open guy. If we were late on the rotation, he found the guy. I have to take my hat off to him. He's as advertised," Brown said. "He got the job done, carried his team and we couldn't do anything about it."

North Clayton's next opponent is Southwest DeKalb, who beat Chattahoochee 68-63, on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.