Shorter UC deck trumps gritty SF

Shorter UC deck trumps gritty SF
Shorter UC deck trumps gritty SF

South Fulton’s Harrison Hawks looks for a teammate to pass to during Tuesday’s defeat to Union City.
Even without a full deck, Union City managed to trump South Fulton.
The Tornadoes — playing minus their second and third leading scorers due to injury — nonetheless pieced together enough offense to beat SF for a 17th consecutive time and end the Devils’ 2010-11 season with a 52-46 triumph Tuesday in the District 14A quarterfinals.
UC still had an ace up its sleeve as top threat Antonio Cox hit five 3-pointers and the jackpot-high of 21 markers in all to help the third-seeded Twisters (14-16) advance to Friday’s semifinals against No. 2 Lake County and assure themselves of at least three more games.
The sixth-seeded Red Devils, who showed marked improvement under first-year head coach Wes Miller and more than tripled last season’s win total of three, ended the year with a 10-16 slate and a gritty final game effort.
A run of 12 unanswered Union City points from a span late in the third period until early in the fourth proved to be the telling stretch when the Tornadoes built the largest lead (38-24) of the contest in which both teams were offensively-challenged for the most part.
Russ Smith scored seven of his nine points during that stretch and capped the flurry with an old-fashioned 3-point play, while Cox made one of his long-distance treys to contribute.
Peyton Mosley, who dominated the paint with a 12-point, 14-rebound effort for UC, started the spurt with one of his six stickback buckets.
The Redmen, who had turnovers on four straight possessions to aid the Twisters’ telling streak, took advantage of some shaky Tornado foul shooting down the stretch to twice get within the final margin, but got no closer.
“We had to have some different people to step up and make plays, and I thought both Peyton and Chris Boucher, who made four straight free throws down the stretch, filled those roles,” said Twister head coach Shane Sisco, whose team was missing LaMarcus Allen (broken hand in an out-of-school incident) and Tyler Steward (torn elbow tendon).
“When you begin the postseason, your first goal is to make it to the regional tournament. We have struggled all year offensively except for a five- or six-game stretch, and we’ve reverted back to those struggles the last three games. Still, we found a way to win tonight and, the big thing, it gives our young guys at least three more games and another several practices to work and get better.”
Without Allen and Steward — each of whom averaged nearly 12 ppg — each of Cox’s trifectas were especially critical.
The first two came at the end of the first and second periods, respectively, the second giving Union City a 21-18 halftime edge. He then made a pair of shots beyond the arc in the third stanza when the Tornadoes built their biggest lead before sinking the last of his longballs with 2:41 to play to stretch the lead back to double digits after Jordan Davis had drawn SF within 40-33.
“Every one of Cox’s 3-pointers was big,” Miller confirmed afterward. “No doubt the 12-0 run was the difference in the game. We hurt ourselves with the turnovers, and that was one of the lulls that we’ve talked about all year long that ended up hurting us.
“I was pleased with our effort for 29 minutes. The other three minutes is what killed us.”
Neither team shot as well as 40 percent from the field in the game, which included a handful of long stretches without a field goal.
Cox’s first 3-pointer to end the first quarter was the first shot made by either team outside eight feet.
South Fulton, which was missing starter Kendall Greer due to illness, took its last lead at 16-15 with 3:23 left before halftime when freshman Harrison Hawks bottomed a 3-pointer, then three successive free throws when he was fouled on an attempt from the perimeter.
A Tevaris James 10-footer at the 2:02 mark of the third stanza got the Devils within 28-26 before UC put together its deciding run of a dozen straight points.
“I think we might’ve been a little too-juiced early. Our kids wanted to win so bad,” added Miller, whose squad graduates only one senior — Alex Gallien.
“We didn’t quit, though, when we easily could have. Our goal was to win 12 or 13 games, and we could have — and maybe even 15 or 16 — if we’d have finished out some games we had a chance in early. I think everybody got a glimpse of how good we can be if we stick together and work hard in the offseason.”
Davis finished with a team-high 16 points for SF, the only Devil in double figures.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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