Luverne falls to Tanner in final seconds
Ultimately, free throws doomed the Luverne Tigers.
Missed free throws from Luverne and a made free throw from Tanner gave the Rattlers a 51-50 win over the Tigers in Final Four action in Birmingham on Tuesday.
With the game tied at 50 and less than three seconds on the clock, a foul by Luverne sent Justin Smith to the foul line, where he hit one of two free throws to win the game for Tanner.
The Tigers were only 3-15 on free throws for the game, including a stretch in the second half where they missed eight straight.
“We missed our free throws and our opportunities,” said head coach Richard Dorsey. “We made some bad passes and turnovers. There were some things we did to not finish the game, and to be a seasoned ball club, that wasn’t like us. It’s the first time we’ve done that in months.”
“But some things are just not meant to be,” he said.
Dorsey said that Tanner came out with more intensity to start the game than Luverne did, and the Rattlers led 14-9 after the first quarter.
Luverne roared back to claim a 32-25 lead at halftime, but the third quarter was nearly a copy of the first quarter as Tanner outscored Luverne 14-8.
“We knew the only way we had a chance was defense, and we didn’t play the best defense in the first quarter and the beginning of the third quarter,” Dorsey said.
Deanthony Rutledge led the team with 12 points, but Donta Hall, Preston Sankey and Jamarcus June all scored 10 points.
Rutledge pulled off a double-double with 11 rebounds, and Hall had nine boards.
After defeating R.C. Hatch in the regional tournament in Montgomery, the Tigers faced Aliceville for the regional title and came away with a 59-44 win.
The game was close until the fourth quarter, when Luverne outscored Aliceville 25-6.
Sankey had 18 points, Rutledge had 16 and Hall added 11.
Both Hall and Rutledge also had double-doubles with 11 rebounds.
James Campos also had a solid game for the Tigers with three steals and a couple of layups that ignited the Luverne crowd.
The loss to Tanner ended the best season in Luverne history as the Tigers made it to the Final Four for the first time.
Dorsey said the team has five seniors, but that the future looks bright with some younger players coming up and hard work.
“It’s just going to be a matter of how hard they want to work and improve,” he said. “They see what we can accomplish if we work hard and stick together. Hopefully they’ll be hungry enough to get in the weight room and work hard during the summer to make it back here next year.”
“It’s been a blast for us to be here,” Dorsey added. “I told them to enjoy the ride.”
Luverne ends the season with a 24-10 record.