Loachapoka LHS

Loachapoka's Taylah Murph prepares to shoot a free throw during the Lady Indians' Class 1A Southeast Regional Semifinal game against Elba in Montgomery on Thursday.

MONTGOMERY — After leading for the majority of Thursday’s game against Elba, the Loachapoka Lady Indians found themselves in a nail-biter with five minutes to go. Unfortunately for the Lady Indians, the moment proved to be too much.

Loachapoka wasn’t able to keep up their stellar play in the final minutes of the Class 1A Southeast Regional Semifinals, as the team failed to score in the final five minutes and 20 seconds in a 38-32 loss to the Lady Tigers. The loss marked the second straight year in which the Lady Indians fell in the regional semis.

“We were real undisciplined in the end. We were trying new things at the end — things I’ve never seen them do before. We were not able to stay in our character,” Loachapoka coach Anthony Edwards said. “When we got down, we started to panic. With three minutes on the clock and we’re down four, we panicked but we still had a lot of time. I don’t think they realized how much time was on the clock when we started panicking.

“We just panicked in the end there when we should have stayed calm and chipped back into the game.”

Tytiana Clemons’ jumper with 5:20 left in the fourth quarter gave the Lady Indians a 32-30 advantage, but from there Elba (22-7) took total control.

After Nina Williams hit one free throw to cut Loachapoka’s lead down to one point, Melissa Williams delivered a basket from the field with 4:25 on the clock to give Elba a 33-32 lead. The two teams traded possessions before Elba consciously began working the clock, a tactic which ultimately ended when Melissa Williams delivered three points the old-fashioned way with 1:54 left in the fourth.

Now down 36-32, Loachapoka (25-9) needed an answered but continued to come up empty. Loachapoka followed an Elba turnover with a mid-range shot that fell well short of the rim, which the Lady Tigers quickly grabbed to take the possession.

Elba’s rebound forced Loachapoka to foul, but the Lady Tigers couldn’t convert and the Lady Indians remained in contention. Unfortunately for Loachapoka, it couldn’t take advantage and again missed its next shot attempt before Elba’s Jaylyn Baker grabbed the board and passed to Macie Sanders, who was fouled.

Sanders nailed both free throws to create a 38-32 score with 24 seconds left. Loachapoka then missed three consecutive shots around the paint before Elba mercifully grabbed the final defensive rebound to close the game.

Taylah Murph led Loachapoka with nine points and three assists in the loss. Clemons and O’Daisha Richardson each chipped in six points, respectively.

For Elba, Nina Williams was the top scorer with a game-high 12 points. Baker and Freeda Hooks contributed seven points apiece.

The lackluster close to Thursday’s game undoubtedly stung for the Lady Indians, but Edwards did his best to be optimistic. Edwards said he told his players to use the defeat as a motivator in the time between now and the team’s 2020-2021 season.

“I told them, ‘You see the seniors here. They’re hurt. They tried very hard. What you do at this time right now — between this last game and the first game next year is the important space you’ve got to fill,” Edwards said. “’You’re either going to lay around and be lazy and not get better, or you’re going to have a drive and a passion for the game to get better. We need you to get better.’”

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