Cats fall to Tigers in Final 4

Published 3:59 pm Friday, March 13, 2009

A 28-point performance by senior center Manny Atkins led the Tucker High School Tigers to a 72-66 Wednesday night victory over the Bainbridge High School Bearcats at the Gwinnett Arena, eliminating The Bearcats from the State AAAA Final 4 Tournament.

The Bearcats, who were led by Marquis Williams with 23 points, finish the season 27-4 and were winners of 18 of their last 19 games.

The win sent the Tigers to Friday’s state Class AAAA championship game against Miller Grove, which defeated Glynn Academy 83-68 Wednesday.

Bearcats head coach Rickey McCullough said he was very proud of his team and the great character they exhibited all season.

“I have never had a group of kids with better character,” he said. “They worked hard, played together and did all the things you need to do to win. Manny Atkins was the difference in the game. He was the real deal.”

The two teams were all tied up at 15 at the end of the first quarter. The Cats’ biggest lead in the first was three points. They went up 11-9 when Melzie Johnson got a rebound and putback.

Back-to-back 3-point shots by Johnson and Marquis Williams put them up by six points, 23-17, early in the second quarter.

Two free throws by James Lodman put the Bearcats up 28-17.

Johnson put the Bearcats up 30-20 with a rebound and putback, but then Tucker responded with a 3-point shot to cut the lead back to seven late in the second quarter.

The Tigers cut the Bearcats’ lead to 37-33 going into halftime.

Williams opened the second-half scoring with a 3-point shot putting the Bearcats up 40-33.

After giving up the lead with less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter, Johnson hit a free throw to tie the game 45-45 with 2:11 left in the quarter. Nearing the end of the third quarter, the score was again tied at 49-49.

With only seconds remaining in the third quarter, Christopher Kingsberry for the Tigers hit a 3-point shot to send the Tigers to the fourth quarter with a 52-49 lead.

The Bearcats trailed by seven points with five minutes remaining in the game, 59-52.

Davario Thomas hit a 3-point shot to pull the Bearcats’ within six at 61-55 with a little over three minutes left in the fourth.

Williams hit another 3-pointer to cut the Tigers’ lead to five with two minutes remaining.

Williams, who was the Bearcats’ leading scorer with 23 points, hit two more 3-pointers in the final minute of the game to keep the Bearcats close.

Behind Williams in the Bearcats scoring column were Johnson and Lodman with 10 apiece, Thomas and Antroine Williford with 7 each, Eric Vickers with 5 and Jonathan Taylor with 2.

Joining Atkins in double figures for the Tigers were Christopher Kingsberry with 15 and Brandon Dawson with 13.