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Free throws doom HAHS in Class 2A quarterfinals

[3/2/04]JACKSON Hinds AHS stood 15 feet from advancing to the second round of the Class 2A State Tournament, and time after time the Bulldogs let their chance slip away.

Hinds (27-9), the second seed from the South, went 0-for-7 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter in a 50-44 loss to Ashland, eliminating the Bulldogs from postseason.

“It was right there for us,” Hinds AHS coach Keith Williams said. “There’s a difference between stepping up to the line knowing you’re going to make free throws and not having confidence. When you step up to the line afraid, you put pressure on yourself.

“And that’s what happened tonight.”

While the Bulldogs couldn’t buy a free throw, Ashland was automatic.

Senior DeAnthony Tipler nailed seven fourth-quarter free throws in as many attempts, and led the team with 14 points. His clutch shooting down the stretch allowed the foul-plagued Blue Devils to pull away.

“It’s been something I’ve been doing all year,” said Tipler, a 5-foot, 7-inch guard who also grabbed a pair of key rebounds in the closing seconds among the taller post players. “Coach told me he wants me on the line. I just relaxed and hit the shots.”

O’Shad Lofton scored a team-high 13 points off the bench for Hinds, while Joseph White and Mario Webb each netted 10.

Webb, one of two senior starters for Hinds, committed his fourth foul early in the fourth quarter, sending the slick-shooting forward to the bench, and freezing the rest of the team.

Without Webb, HAHS’ on-floor leader, the attacking Bulldogs turned passive.

For the entire fourth quarter, the Bulldogs scored six points from the field.

Hinds trailed 41-40 with 3:45 left in the game when starting point guard Carl Carson was fouled, but had to leave the game because of a bleeding leg. Jessie Brown missed a pair of free throws and Ashland scored on its next possession to take a 43-40 lead.

“Once Webb went out and Carson had to come out with his leg, we had no one that really wanted to attack the basket,” Williams said.

A missed 3-pointer and two Tipler free throws gave Ashland, a community of fewer than 400 in the northwest part of the state near Holly Springs, a 5-point lead with less than a minute to play.

Several more missed 3-pointers and three Tipler free throws put Ashland up 50-42. Antonio Richardson scored the final basket for Hinds AHS with 5 seconds to play.

“Our defense got stronger in the second half,” Tipler said. “We weren’t doing too good a job in the first half on defense, but we picked it up after halftime.”

Hinds will lose two starters Carson and Maurice Kelly to graduation, but have a strong nucleus returning next season.

“I told the guys that it was the little things we needed to do boxing out, execution and shooting free throws to win the game,” Williams said. “If you do those things, and add heart and desire, you win ballgames.

“They wanted this one more than we did.”