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SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2007
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Hazlewood head coach Darin Liles entertains his team and the fans by doing the jig after the Lady Golden Bears took a fourth-quarter lead over R.A. Hubbard at the Class 1A regional finals in Hanceville on Friday.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Hazlewood head coach Darin Liles entertains his team and the fans by doing the jig after the Lady Golden Bears took a fourth-quarter lead over R.A. Hubbard at the Class 1A regional finals in Hanceville on Friday.

Hazlewood survives poor shooting
Lady Golden Bears force 50
turnovers on way to Final Four

By Bradley Handwerger
bhandwerger@decaturdaily.com 340-2462

HANCEVILLE — The scowl on Darin Liles' face throughout the first three quarters of Hazlewood's Class 1A Regional Final against R.A. Hubbard couldn't have been any easier to decipher.

Despite having forced 39 turnovers, Liles' Hazlewood girls couldn't figure out how to make the little orange ball fall through the orange metal rim, shooting 25 percent from the floor.

And then the shots began to fall as the Lady Golden Bears and the scowl turned into a smile.

Hazlewood turned a three-quarter deficit into a Final Four berth with a 63-57 win over R.A. Hubbard.

The Lady Golden Bears earned their fourth straight trip to Alabama's largest city and will play Notasulga, a 47-38 winner over Hubbertville in the Central Region finals, on Tuesday at 4 p.m.

"We knew it was going to be tough. Then you throw in the equation that it is Hazlewood-Courtland," Liles said. "We're proud to win. I thought we played like a champion tonight. We played a good team."

Hazlewood (28-6) finished the game with 50 forced turnovers, 33 of which came on steals, and made 10 fourth-quarter shots to push past R.A. Hubbard (15-13) despite shooting a paltry 29.5 percent for the game.

For R.A. Hubbard, the game turned on it early in the game, though it didn't know it at the time. Floor leader and ball-handler Chasity Puryear left the game with an elbow injury with 2:16 remaining in the first quarter.

She never returned, and three Lady Chiefs finished with double figures in turnovers.

"That was a tremendous blow to us," R.A. Hubbard coach Jack Steele said. "That was like 15, 16 points for us. "

The game turned towards the end of the third quarter. Hazlewood cut the deficit to one with 3:21 to play Josalin Johnson made a layup.

But R.A. Hubbard pushed the lead back to five points on two Bernisha Hampton layups.

Then Hazlewood went on a 9-0 run, taking its second lead with 7:34 left in the game on Clara Gilchrist's layup.

The Lady Golden Bears wouldn't trail again, despite allowing R.A. Hubbard to shoot 51.1 percent fort the game.

"They shot 51 percent, but if you count the 50 turnovers and steals, that percentage went down," Liles said.

Fifty forced turnovers is impressive, but what's just as impressive is that the Lady Golden Bears won despite a below-average game from Amber Jones, the Regional MVP. Jones finished with only nine points and four assists, and fouled out with three minutes to play and the game still not in hand.

"Our concentration was to shut down Amber and handle the press," Steele said. "We shut down Amber."

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