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WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 31, 2007
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Richard Nasseri, left, fouls Decatur's Rico Pickett during Tanner's win in Tanner on Tuesday night. Pickett finished the night with 15 points. Byrd had 12.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Richard Nasseri, left, fouls Decatur's Rico Pickett during Tanner's win in Tanner on Tuesday night. Pickett finished the night with 15 points. Byrd had 12.

BIT IN THE SNAKE PIT
2A Tanner upsets 5A No. 3 Decatur

By Brooke Milam
bmilam@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

TANNER — The Tanner High Rattlers said no one thought they had a chance Tuesday night when hosting Decatur, the third-ranked team in Class 5A.

"I believe people thought they were going to blow us out," Tanner senior Demarcus King said. "Nobody gave us a chance."

But Tanner, ranked seventh in 2A, made believers out of a packed gym and any other doubters with a 64-61 come-from-behind victory that didn't look promising for Tanner at halftime.

"This is just one of those games that you don't get to play very often," Tanner coach Chris Whitt said.

"Our guys have been excited about this one all year."

There was at least one person on the Decatur boys' bench that knew what the Red Raiders (20-5) were up against.

And after scouting the Rattlers (22-4) on Saturday night, Decatur coach Jamie Lee said he told his team they were in for a challenge.

"I knew they were capable," Lee said. "I knew they had a good athletes that could put the ball on the floor and they could really shoot."

In the first half, Lee's argument didn't look convincing. The Red Raiders had no trouble building a 20-6 lead in the first quarter, and back-to-back crowd-pleasing dunks by Rolando McClain and Rico Pickett kept Decatur fans confident as the Red Raiders cruised to a 35-28 halftime lead.

"First half, we weren't playing as hard, and they got those dunks ... " King said. "But in the second half, we refused to lose."

Tanner opened the second half with a 20-0 run. A free throw by Tanner's Richard Nasseri tied the game at 35 before a 3-pointer by King sent the Rattlers ahead 38-35 with 4:10 left in the third.

Tanner scorched the Red Raiders 25-4 in the third quarter en route to a 48-39 lead.

"I told them if we could just cut it to six we could be in a good position, and I think we actually went ahead — that was huge," Whitt said.

The Rattlers shot 50 percent from the floor in the second half and made 10 of 15 free throws.

Sophomore Latraius Mosley led the Rattlers with 22 points, seven rebounds and two steals. King added 17 points, nine rebounds and two steals, while senior Rod Byrd had 12 points, four rebounds and five assists.

"That was big for us to shoot that well against a man-to-man defense," Whitt said.

Decatur was led by McClain's 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Pickett had 15 points, five rebounds and five assists. Mark Mason contributed 11 points.

Decatur began to slice the Rattlers' advantage, scoring the first four points of the final period, but the Rattlers held on.

"That may be the biggest accomplishment tonight — being able to hold on against a good team like that in the fourth quarter when they are trying to come back," Whitt said.

Decatur was within 61-59 with 16 seconds left, but couldn't inch closer.

Tanner took advantage when Nasseri and Byrd hit free throws for the final margin.

"We played without any emotion or enthusiasm," Lee said. "This will be good for us. It'll get our attention, maybe. ... We needed to be mentally and physically prepared and we weren't. I'll take credit for that."

Tanner girls 71, Decatur 62, 2OT: As Tanner honored its seniors, 12th-graders Hollye Keenum and Whitley Mayberry helped the Lady Rattlers enjoy a double-overtime win.

Tied at 51 at the end of regulation and 60 after the first overtime period, the pair helped Tanner (18-9) take a 66-60 lead before the Lady Red Raiders (2-22) scored a point.

"We played three games last week and we're really not the kind of team that can play back-to-back like that, but I thought the kids really responded. ... They were determined in the second half that they weren't going to get beat," Tanner head coach Larry Greene said.

Decatur coach Brad Boy said that's about when it went wrong for his Lady Red Raiders, who were ahead 20-14 after the first quarter and 37-26 at halftime.

"We should have won this game in regulation," Boy said. "I think we missed 16 free throws in regulation, and you can't win ball games shooting that poorly from the free throw line."

Tanner's Keenum was the game's high scorer with 29 points. She also passed out seven assists. Teammates Cecily Woods and Mikala Malone each had 13 points.

Malone also grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds, and Woods had 12 boards.

Decatur's Whitney Fletcher score 22 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists.

Also for the Lady Red Raiders, Ashley Henderson had 16 points, four assists and five steals, and Ashley Witherspoon had 10 points and nine rebounds.

"At first I thought we might have been intimidated, thinking, 'Hey, this is Decatur,' " Greene said.

On the flip side, the Lady Rattlers sank 23 of 29 from the free-throw line.

"This team is playing so much better now than they did at Christmas," Greene said.

"We've had some good teams in the past, but this team especially seems to be gelling at just the right time."

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