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Nipped by Niko

Alcoa guard goes coast to coast for game-winning layup

_MG_7354Niko White is defended by William Blount’s Joel Graham on Friday at Maryville High. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Niko White didn’t spare the horses with eight seconds left.

Alcoa's Nick Miller glides to the basket for two.

Alcoa’s Nick Miller glides to the basket for two.

The Alcoa guard took the inbounds pass and raced the length of the floor for layup, squeezing between a pair of William Blount defenders at the basket to get the shot off.

The Governors got a good luck at a halfcourt heave with the remaining two seconds, the shot falling short and the Tornadoes holding on for a 53-52 win at the Renasant Bank Christmas Tournament Friday night at Maryville’s James Campbell Gymnasium.

“We tried to get the ball to Peyton and I broke open,” White said. “Once I had the ball, I just took it to the basket.”

The win lifts Alcoa into a semifinal meeting with Fulton tonight at 7.

The host Rebels, a 58-43 winner over Greeneville on Friday, meet Stone Memorial in tonight’s other semifinal at 8:30.

Governor guard Austin Haworth defends against the Tornadoes Malik Love.

Governor guard Austin Haworth defends against Malik Love.

Finals are scheduled for Sunday at 5:15.

As thrilling as White’s game winner proved for the Tornadoes, it was a tough pill to swallow for the Governors, who’d led throughout until Alcoa took its first lead with a minute to play in the third.

“William Blount always plays us tough,” Kirk said. “It never fails.”

White’s basket bounced a couple times on the rim before falling through.

“Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way,” William Blount coach Kevin Windle said. “Nico shoots a finger roll between two guys; the ball bounced on the rim two or three times and could have gone either way. We had him going to his right and never could turn him.”

Hampered early by foul trouble, silky smooth Alcoa forward Nick Miller got going in the second half to lead all scorers with 16 points, including a 3-pointer. Tornado center Brenden Teeter added 11, with forward Peyton Wall finishing with 10 and a trey.

Brenden Teeter scores off the break against Derek Delaney.

Brenden Teeter scores off the break against Derek Delaney.

Reed Daniels had a hot night early to lead the Governors with 12. Austin Haworth delivered a brilliant floor game for William Blount, finishing with 10 points, including a 3, and a huge assist on a Joel Graham go-ahead 3 just prior to White’s winner. Derek Delaney, encouraged by his former Fulton teammates sitting courtside, also had 10.

Working patiently for the best shot on offense, constantly switching defenses at the other end, William Blount took a 20-14 lead after a quarter. Miller collected his second foul with five minutes to play in the second. Sparked by hot shooting from Daniels, Graham and Delaney, the Governors hung on to the lead, 27-24, at the half.

Alcoa began getting to the basket to start the third. Every Tornado bucket in the period came at the glass. With 1:21 remaining in the quarter, a Malik Love 3 gave Alcoa its first lead at 40-38, the Tornadoes ahead by the same score to start the fourth.

The final two minutes were action-packed.

Reed Daniels (22) and Miller get way up for the ball.

Reed Daniels (22) and Miller get way up for the ball.

A Wall free throw edged the Tornadoes out front, 50-47, only to be followed by a pair of free throws from Haworth to trim the deficit to one. Alcoa threw the ball away against the William Blount press on the ensuing possession, only to see the Governors immediately return the favor.

After a White free throw with 15 seconds to play, Haworth hustled into frontcourt and got to the basket before flipping a soft pass out to Graham in the right corner for a wide-open trey and a 52-51 lead.

The Tornadoes wanted first to get the ball to Wall after a timeout. The Governors defended well, forcing the ball into White’s hands for the winning drive.

“I told the guys, ‘We’ve got plenty of time to run the floor,’” Kirk said. “I said when we get it take it hard to the rim.”

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