It’s been a tough season for the Alcovy varsity basketball team, but in their final home game of 2014, the Tigers proved one thing true – they’re not quitters.
The Tigers dropped a 72-60 decision to region-leading Luella on Senior Night, coming back from a 32-point fourth-quarter deficit to trim the lead to a dozen in the final six minutes of play.
Cameron Banks led the Tigers with 20 points, including eight in the fourth quarter, but Luella’s length caused problems for much of the night, limiting the Tigers to just 10 points in the third quarter.
The Lions turned the ball over 22 times in the win, including 13 times in the first half. But, for all of its miscues in the first half, Luella played an almost flawless third quarter, turning a 10-point lead into a 65-35 advantage.
Luella outscored the Tigers 30-10 during the third quarter, including 15 points from TeMarcus Balton, who scored a game-high 25 points, before the Tigers roared back in the fourth quarter.
The loss drops Alcovy to 2-10 overall in Region 2-AAAAAA heading into next week’s region tournament, while the Lions locked up the region’s No. 1 seed with a 10-1 record.
“In the second half, we lost the battle by two points, even with their big third quarter,” Alcovy coach Eric Hollier said. “I don’t know what it is about the third quarter, but we’ve seemed to struggle there. Despite that, we showed that we could play with this team. They’re the No. 1 team in the region and we showed that we can play right along with them.”
With just a 35-25 lead at halftime, Luella poured on the points in the third quarter, starting the period on a 22-2 run. Seven-foot junior Doral Moore hit the Lions' first two bucks of the quarter, and an Andre Blanton 3-pointer from the right wing pushed Luella’s lead to 44-25. A Glendell Hodge jumper broke the Lions’ streak, but Luella rolled off 13 consecutive points to take a 57-27 advantage.
Alcovy scored on a layup inside to quell the run, but TeMarcus Blanton hit back-to-back 3-pointers, extending Luella’s lead to 63-29.
LaReco Herring scored twice to close the quarter with a pair of free throws and a spin-around jumper in the lane, but Luella’s early damage was done. The Lions held a commanding 65-35 lead after three quarters, but the Tigers weren’t ready give in just yet.
In a shortened fourth quarter, the Tigers’ offense finally found its spark, outscoring the Lions 25-7. Banks had eight points during the period, including consecutive layups that trimmed Luella’s lead to 64-39.
Banks hit a 3-pointer and Greg Perry scored twice inside and hit a jumper on the baseline, cutting the Lions’ once mighty lead to 21.
Banks ended his scoring night with a pair of layups in the closing minute and Jalen Johnson connected with a 3-pointer, part of Alcovy’s eight-point run during the final 75 seconds, but the Tigers’ comeback bid fell short, as Luella held on for the 12-point victory.
“I wish we had those extra two minutes,” Hollier said. “Their play in the fourth quarter says a lot about their heart. They went out like champions. They would not surrender. I’m extremely proud of them. It was a great effort.”
Alcovy trailed the Lions 17-11 after the first quarter, as Luella got off to an 11-4 start behind a pair of layups from Nathan Harvey and a 3-pointer from Brendan McNeal. Alcovy matched the Lions point for point after Luella gained its seven-point lead, with Herring scoring six points in the quarter.
Luella added four to its lead in the second quarter, outscoring the Tigers 18-14. The Lions used a 10-2 spurt to take a 31-18 advantage, but the Tigers cut the lead to 10 at halftime with back-to-back baskets in the half 's final 1:36.
Perry and Herring also finished in double figures with 17 and 14 points, respectively.
Before the game, Alcovy honored seniors Devonte Long, Greg Giles Jr., Perry, Herring and Johnson
on Senior Night.
Alcovy returns to action next week for the start of the Region 2-AAAAAA Tournament hosted at Newton High School.