The sixth-ranked Tucker boys basketball team was struggling to score, hampered by foul trouble and staring at a seven-point deficit going into halftime of its second-round game of the Class AAAAA tournament at Allatoona on Saturday.
So the Tigers had to rely on their defense in the second half.
Tucker held No. 7 Allatoona to four field goals and just 12 points in the final 16 minutes to escape with a 37-33 victory and advance to the quarterfinals, where it will play at Miller Grove.
“Class AAAAA basketball is tough all over the state,” Tucker coach James Hartry said. “All 32 teams that made it to the tournament are going to be tough to play. It’s just a matter of which team’s going to show up and play 32 minutes. The team we played tonight is a fine ballclub, well-coached and disciplined. We’re just lucky to get out of here. It’s a tough place to play and a tough place to win.”
Tucker (20-9) trailed 21-14 at halftime and 22-14 after Allatoona’s Forrestt Lane made a free throw 18 seconds into the third quarter, but the Tigers took control of the game over the next six minutes with a 16-1 run, capped by Jon Dunmyer’s 3-pointer that made it 30-23. Allatoona made just one field goal in the quarter, a put-back by Daniel Fowler in the closing seconds that cut the lead to 30-26.
Allatoona got within three points three times in the fourth quarter and had several opportunities to pull even, but the Buccaneers never could hit the key 3-pointer to tie the game. Davanta Reynolds made two free throws with 22 seconds remaining, and Devonte Fitzgerald made one of two with 2.6 seconds left to secure the victory.
Tucker held Allatoona (23-7) without a field goal for the game’s first six and a half minutes, but 6-foot-10 center Jabari Craig left the game after picking up his second foul late in the quarter. The Tigers missed his defensive presence, as Allatoona went on a 16-2 run to take a 17-7 lead with 5:51 to play in the half. Craig picked up his third and fourth fouls in the first four minutes of the second half, and 6-7 forward Fitzgerald, who finished with 10 points, got his fourth foul with 6:17 to play in the game. But Tucker had just enough of a cushion to hold on for the victory.
Reynolds scored 14 points to lead the Tigers, who barely managed half of their 64-point scoring average. Fowler, a junior who was honored before the game for recently scoring his 1,000th career point, scored 13 to lead Allatoona.
“It always hurts when your 6-10 guy leaves the floor, but we’ve got guys that can come in off the bench,” Hartry said. “We’re in our 29th game of the season. When you’re playing against the big guy in practice every day, you ought to know how to do something. It hurts when Jabari has to come off the floor, but these guys find a way to pull it out.”
Tucker (37): Davanta Reynolds 14, Jon Dunmyer 5, Davonte Fitzgerald 10, Jabari Craig 3, Shembari Phillips 5, Kehlel Assing, Josh Ware, Conrad Williams, Tyler Burch.
Allatoona (33): Mario Baggs 5, Forrestt Lane 2, Daniel Fowler 13, Shamar Griffin 5, Rodney Brown 2, Bradley Brevet 3, Austin Faulkner 3, Jacob Morrison, Paul Bloodworth.