The most prolific era in Alcovy basketball, and perhaps the most celebrated in the school’s sports tenure came to an end Friday night.
Valdosta visited the No. 1-seeded Lady Tigers in the second round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs, escaping with a 44-42 victory.
Alcovy was just two games removed from winning the Region 2-AAAAAA championship, the first in school history during its third straight unbeaten region season and third straight 20-win season.
“Our senior class is by far the most successful senior class we’ve ever had here at Alcovy,” Alcovy coach Kidada Holtzclaw said. “I can go on and on about the senior class.”
Those players leaving Alcovy High at the end of the school year are Jasmine Hodges, who had eight points againstValdosta, and four of its five starters in Lakeiyah Sorrells, Kaci Palo and future Southeastern Conference players Meagan Tucker and Ashley Williams, the Region 2-AAAAAA player of the year.
Williams and Tucker have been the Lady Tigers leader on the stat sheet for a better part of their four years with the program and Friday combined for 28 of Alcovy’s 42 points. Unfortunately for Tucker and Williams they also went a combined 0 for 4 from the free-throw line in the final 10 seconds.
The Lady Tigers struggled from the foul line throughout, making just 2 of 12 free throws.
“We haven’t shot a great free-throw percentage all year long,” Holtzclaw said. “We started situations where we shoot free throws in practice and we talked about it being our nemesis. It showed up again tonight.”
Alcovy also struggled shooting beyond the free-throw line making 22 of 72 field goals for a percentage of 30.6. That number was boosted by going 7 for 15 in the first quarter (46.7 percent). The poor shooting, coupled with just six trips to the free-throw line throughout the game’s 32 minutes made it tough for the Lady Tigers to reach their average of 53.6 points per game.
“A lot of those missed shots were situations where we were getting hit in the face, and hit in the head, and slapped and grabbed,” Holtzclaw said. “I don’t think there’s a whole lot of people here who can make shots when that’s happening to them.”
The Lady Tigers, though, also missed shots when they were unmolested, such as Palo’s open 3-point look from the right side of the court with under a minute left and her team down by three, 43-40. Holtzclaw called for a drive to the hoop, but Palo, one of Alcovy’s better shooters opted to pull up, something her coach didn’t mind seeing.
“Kaci is a shooter,” Holtzclaw said. “She can score. I feel like if Kaci is open, she can score.”
However, the potential tying shot came up short, and Alcovy couldn’t claw back after Valdosta did the same.
The Lady Wildcats trailed 28-16 near the end of the first half before scoring the second quarter’s final five points. Valdosta then opened the third quarter with seven straight points, trimming its deficit to two, 30-28. After Alcovy pull back ahead by four, Valdosta reeled off an 11-2 run, thanks in part to seven points by Taylor Hauser.
Hauser’s 3-pointer with 3:02 left was the first lead of the game since 1-0 for Valdosta, which stayed in front the rest of the way.
Alcovy now will look to regroup with its younger players, who will have the daunting task of continuing four years of winning basketball, making the Lady Tigers one of the state’s top teams throughout the last three years, including a final four appearance in 2011-12.
“The kids coming up have big shoes to fill,” Holtzclaw said.