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Hartselle's Jessi Smith, left, and Mary Virginia Reeves (24) put pressure on Brewer's Andrea Crawford, who had 30 points in her team's win.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Hartselle's Jessi Smith, left, and Mary Virginia Reeves (24) put pressure on Brewer's Andrea Crawford, who had 30 points in her team's win.

Brewer knocks
off Hartselle - again

By Mark Edwards 340-2461

HARTSELLE — It happened again.

Two weeks after Brewer High's upstart girls basketball team upset powerful Hartselle in the Morgan County Tournament finals, the Lady Patriots did it again.

Playing in the Class 5A, Area 13 championship game in front of a packed gym at Hartselle High, Brewer pulled off an emotional 63-58 victory over its rival Monday night that left both sides shedding a few tears.

"Even though we beat Hartselle in the county tournament, we were still considered the underdogs," Brewer senior guard Andrea Crawford said. "We wanted to prove a lot of people wrong, and we did."

Brewer (22-7), ranked ninth in the final 5A state rankings, has won 12 straight but lost two regular-season meetings with the Lady Tigers (25-6), who finished third in the state poll.

But Monday, the Lady Patriots won after getting off to a fast start, holding off a Hartselle second-half rally and riding the inspired play of Crawford, who finished with 30 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists. She scored 16 points in the fourth quarter alone.

"This is my 22nd year of coaching (at Brewer), and I've seen a lot of big basketball games," Lady Patriots coach Ricky Allen said. "This one was as big as any. This is the kind of game that means a whole lot to basketball in North Alabama and at Brewer."

Next up for Brewer is a home date Thursday against Muscle Shoals in the sub-regional round. Meanwhile, Hartselle must travel to fourth-ranked Athens. The Lady Tigers swept both regular-season meetings with Athens, but both were in November.

On Monday, Brewer trailed briefly in the opening minutes but gradually built a lead that peaked at 34-21 early in the third quarter. Hartselle rallied and finally caught Brewer with 6:33 to play in the final period.

Hartselle's Jessica Andrews nailed a 3-pointer to put the Lady Tigers ahead 45-44, but Brewer responded with the signature play of the night.

Brewer set up its offense with Crawford handling the ball at the top of the key. She began
to drive but pulled up a little behind the 3-point arc and sank a shot just as a Hartselle
defender knocked her to the floor.

The ball hit the rim and went up in the air several feet. With Crawford sprawled on the floor, she looked up in time to see the ball drop through the basket. The Hartselle foul gave her a free throw, and she made that, too, for a 48-45 lead.

"In that situation, everybody in the gym knows where we're going with the ball — to A.C.," Allen said.

After that, the Lady Patriots never led by fewer than three points. Crawford added 10 more of her points in the final 4:31 to play to keep Brewer in charge.

"Andrea's one of the world's smartest players. She's one of the world's most determined players, and she's one of the world's nicest people," Allen said. "But when you put the ball in her hands, she's one of the meanest."

Brewer got a huge lift from its inside game as starting center Courtney Scott had
seven points and seven rebounds.

However, she struggled with fouls, and backup Michelle Tillman managed only three points but pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds.

"Michelle doesn't always get as much playing time as others, but she always plays hard," Crawford said.

Most importantly, the Brewer duo kept Hartselle center Lauren Drake in foul trouble. Drake picked up her fourth foul late in the third quarter and her fifth with about two minutes left to play.

Drake finished with 12 points. Andrews paced Hartselle with 15 points, and Jessi Smith had 14.

"They got us in foul trouble, and we're not as good when Lauren Drake isn't on the floor for very many minutes," Hartselle coach Greg Adams

"We had only 17 points from the post, and we're usually getting 28 or 30. When we make more 3-pointers (10) than 2-pointers (eight), we're not playing well."

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