By Steve Williams
Alcoa’s Dante Harris looked like the best player on David Marsh Court.
The talented sophomore guard had 18 points by halftime and the Tornadoes were battering Fulton by nine in the Region 2-AA championship game at Alcoa Thursday night.
Inside the Falcons’ dressing room during intermission, junior post Deshaun Page said the Falcons decided to put more of an emphasis on team play. The new focus turned the game around.
Fulton scored 14 straight points in less than three minutes to seize the lead and weathered one more run by Alcoa in the final period to notch a 53-44 win and claim the region title.
The Falcons (22-8) will be seeking their 17th TSSAA state tournament berth when they host Unicoi County (22-12) in the sectional round tonight (March 5) at 7 o’clock.
Alcoa (21-10) also will be trying to advance to Murfreesboro but will have to punch its ticket with a road win at Grainger (23-8) in Rutledge.
Grainger defeated Unicoi County 71-55 in the Region 1-AA finals.
“We just had a lot of people trying to do it their selves and we just couldn’t get it,” said Page, explaining the biggest change Fulton made at halftime. “We had to play all together and just come as one. That’s it.”
Another sophomore – Fulton’s Edward Lacy – briefly stole the show as he hit back-to-back 3-pointers from practically the same spot on the floor to cap his team’s third period takeoff that produced a 33-28 lead.
The Falcons ended up outscoring Alcoa 21-2 in the third period. After his impressive first half, the Tornadoes’ Harris did not score in the third period and sat out the final 3 minutes and 11 seconds after picking up his third foul.
Harris came back to score 14 points in the final period to finish with a game-high 32. His two free throws pulled Alcoa into a 44-all tie with 1:22 to go, but a 3-pointer by Lacy from the left of the circle put Fulton ahead for good.
Harris picked up his fourth foul with 47 seconds left and his fifth eight seconds later. The Falcons closed out the game with six free throws by Trey Davis, including one on a technical foul shot.
Davis finished with a team-high 16 points. Page worked inside for 13. Lacy totaled 11.
“It was the second night in a row that we’ve been down at the half, which tells me we may be slow starters,” said Fulton Coach Jody Wright.
“We talked at halftime about not any nine-point plays being out there. Let’s get a stop and get a bucket and then let’s do it again. And that’s kind of what we did in the third quarter.”
The way Alcoa Coach Joel Kirk saw it: “They just had more intensity coming out of the locker room. I think those first three minutes were the whole turning point of the game.”
But Wright wasn’t surprised Alcoa came back.
“They have an explosive point guard and we knew they would be back in it.”
ALL-TOURNEY: Fulton point guard Edward Lacy was named MVP and was joined by teammates Trey Davis, Deshaun Page and Josh Berry on the all-tournament team.
Other honorees included Alcoa’s Dante Harris, Jalen Carter and Mekhi Carter, Carter’s Shawn Page and Josh Lecroy and Union County’s Barron Nease and Landon Oaks.