Monday, February 16, 2009


SCA falls just short
Tiftarea’s Tay Mallory scores 36 points to lift the Panthers past Sherwood Christian in the GISA Region 3-AA championship game.

TIFTON — Sherwood Christian coach Matt Ruta threw every defense he knew of at Tiftarea’s Tay Mallory on Friday.
None of them mattered.
Confronted with a double team in the post, Mallory used his quickness to slip to the rim. Against a strict ball denial, his speed blew him open into the lane. Against the triangle-and-two, he stepped back for a 3-pointer. Against a smothering double team on the perimeter, he stepped back further.
He was the best player on the court in the GISA Region 3-AA championship game on Friday at ABAC in the 72-65 Tiftarea win. And on a night Sherwood Christian star center Cameron Williams scored 37 points, that is saying something.
Casting a shadow on a dejected Eagles bench, Mallory proudly lifted the GISA Region 3-AA championship trophy high in his left hand near midcourt with 36 points in the book.
“A great player like that — it is hard to defend him,” Williams said.
Tiftarea coach Chris Champion would have to agree.
“What a talent,” Compton exclaimed.
Added Ruta, “He’s phenomenal.”
Despite jumping out to a 22-10 lead, Sherwood Christian (19-5) never retaliated after two Mallory-fueled runs left the Eagles as the No. 2 seed out of their region in the Class AA State Tournament. They will now play Memorial Day on Thursday at 4 p.m. at Brewton-Parker College in the first round.
“I knew it would be a game of runs,” Ruta said. “We did a good job on Mallory early but then Cameron Hammonds got in foul trouble. He is the only person I have that can physically match him. That was when they went on their run because we couldn’t match.”
The sentiment went both ways.
In the third game of a series that included both teams winning on their respective home courts earlier this year, the battle between Williams and Mallory lived up to the hype that drew a boisterous crowd to Tifton.
Mallory scored 14 of his team’s points during a 16-9 run to open the third quarter. He knocked down two 3-pointers, hung in the air for a falling bank shot in the lane and skied to the glass for an offensive putback.
Williams countered with a step-back 3 of his own and two determined post moves. He would score 28 of his team’s 40 points in the second half. But once the dust settled, Sherwood was in a nine-point hole at the end of the third quarter. The Eagles would never cut the lead to less than six points in the fourth.
“My teammates got me open, coach is always telling me to be aggressive,” Mallory said. “I knew my teammates had my back.”
Champion would argue those teammates made the difference. With Williams and Mallory in superstar mode, Tiftarea’s Josh Haynes and Colby Czerepinski both scored 11 points in support. Whereas Sherwood got 13 points from Wesley Pittman, second-leading scorer Dequan Green was held to only two points while battling foul trouble.
“A game like this, it can be about the other four,” Champion said. “We got the best of them from that angle.”
This was the third consecutive year in the region title game for Tiftarea, but only the first time it held the championship trophy after consecutive losses to Brookwood, which moved to Region 3-AAA this offseason.
Sherwood finished 4-19 last year and its only region championship came in 2004. Even in the moments following the defeat Ruta would not let the accomplishments of this turnaround season be dwarfed by Mallory’s magic.
“They have some experience we haven’t had,” Ruta said. “They have been to the last three of these. But I am proud of my guys. They fought their tails off. You’ve got to put in perspective where we came from. We were 4-19 a year ago, we are 19-5 right now and a (No. 2) seed going into the state tournament.”

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