Red Bay’s Kasey Sparks searches for the basket in Monday’s state semi-final win against Samson. The Lady Tigers will play for the state title on Friday at 1 p.m. against top-ranked Woodland. Photo by Bart Moss.
Red Bay’s Kasey Sparks searches for the basket in Monday’s state semi-final win against Samson. The Lady Tigers will play for the state title on Friday at 1 p.m. against top-ranked Woodland. Photo by Bart Moss.

Archived Story

Lady Tigers heading to championship game

Published 10:44am Wednesday, February 26, 2014

By Bart Moss

For the FCT

The same formula Red Bay has used all year to stymie opponents worked its magic in the state semi-finals.

The Tigers used pressure man-to-man defense to run past Samson 54-38.

“Man-to-man is all we know at Red Bay,” Lady Tigers head coach Donnie Roberts said. “We don’t play zone. I’m not sure we would know how if we went to one.

“It’s the way we have played all year long. I see no need to stop now. We were able to force some quick turnovers early in the second quarter that got us some easy transition points. We put some space between us and Samson and we were able to maintain it.”

The Tigers also took advantage of a unique opportunity – size advantage – to get the ball to Kasey Sparks in the lane. Sparks had a game-high 22 points. She was 8 for 10 from the field and 6 for 10 from the free throw line.

“Kasey had a good night,” Roberts said. “Kasey was taller than their girls inside and we took advantage of it.

“If she didn’t get the score near the basket she was getting fouled and going to the free throw line. Our guard did a good job of being patient and moving the ball around until the opportunity presented itself.”

Using their speed and quickness, Samson was able to jump out to a quick 6-2 lead over Red Bay. The Tigers adjusted and were able to outscore Samson 8-2 in the remainder of the first quarter to take a 10-8 lead. It was a lead Red Bay would not lose.

The Tigers quickly extended their lead to 19-8 to start the second quarter on a three-point basket by Elizabeth Wooten and a three-point play by Darby Madden.

Red Bay’s defensive steals and easy transition baskets increased their lead to 25-11 with 3:44 to go in the half. By halftime, the Tigers led Samson 32-17

After the halftime break, Samson’s renewed energy allowed them to go on an 8-0 run and cut Red Bay’s lead to eight, 33-25. Sparks got two points inside off an assist from Carlee Berry to stop Samson’s run and give the Tigers a 10-point advantage.

After the Tigers stopped Samson’s early surge there was no looking back. Red Bay, with the ball in freshman point guard Allie Kennedy’s hands, was able to take control of the game and outscore Samson 19-13 the rest of the way for the win.

Kennedy said their running game helped wear down Samson and opened up some shots for the Tigers as the game transpired.

“I think when we were running our fast break and pushing the ball, it gave Kasey more opportunities to score and our intensity was a lot better,” said Kennedy, who finished with 11 points. “They were getting tired and we could see the frustration.”

Others scoring for Red Bay were Wooten (7), Madden (7), Berry (5), and Cook (2).

Red Bay will face a familiar opponent in the state-finals Friday at 1 p.m. The Tigers will play Woodland for the second time this season.  Woodland easily defeated Montgomery Academy 77-52 in the 2A girl’s nightcap on Monday.

Red Bay lost to Woodland in the Lauderdale County Christmas Tournament back in December. They are led by senior point guard Leah Strain who became the state’s second all-time leading scorer on Tuesday night (4,534 points) with 35 points against Montgomery Academy. She trails only her sister, Courtney, who plays for the Auburn Tigers.

According to the AHSAA, Strain is probably the only girls player in AHSAA history with 4,500-plus points along with 1,000-plus rebounds, assists, made free throws and steals.

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