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Hillcrest girls advance to region tournament


Hillcrest’s Ambrica Johnson (34) looks for a clear shot over Minor’s Tan Walker during a Class 6A subregion game at Hillcrest High School on Thursday. The Patriots won, 43-39, and advance to next week’s Northwest Regional tournament in Hanceville. (Photo by Michelle Lepianka Carter)


TUSCALOOSA | The Hillcrest High School girls basketball team scored only two baskets in the fourth quarter Thursday night, but they never lost the lead.

Senior guard Ambrica Johnson sank two free throws with 5.3 seconds left to cap a 43-39 victory over visiting Minor in a Class 6A subregional game.

Hillcrest (22-10) advances to the Northwest Regional in Hanceville. Coach Jerome Elliott said he expects his team to play Sparkman at noon Wednesday at Wallace State Community College.

Hillcrest started the fourth quarter with a 37-27 lead. Johnson took an assist pass from freshman guard Charity Brown and scored on a layup. Brown assisted again when Johnson scored from the baseline.

Minor cut it to 41-39 on a basket by Crystalyn Hill with 25.8 seconds left. Johnson missed a one-and-one free throw, but the Lady Patriots got the ball back on a turnover with 7 seconds left.

"In the fourth quarter, since we had a key player (center Ariel Minor) in foul trouble, we wanted to try to control the tempo," Elliott said. "We were trying to shorten the game as much as we could."

Minor fouled out with 3:20 left. The Lady Tigers staged an 8-2 run and cut the deficit to 39-35 when Shanice Blutcher hit two free throws.

"We had to begin to play offense again," Elliott said. "We were selective with the shots we were taking, and we wanted layups or free throws."

Johnson nailed four 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 24 points. She scored 11 of Hillcrest’s 15 points in the first quarter.

Johnson got fouled as she made her first 3-point try and then made the free throw. Moments later, she did the same to complete a second 3-point play.

Elliott said he couldn’t remember having a player record two 4-point plays in one game.

"She had two 4-point plays in less than four minutes," Elliott said. "It’s amazing just to get one in a season. She played a really good game. She showed that senior experience on the floor, and she hit some big shots. She made some big steals. I thought she played a complete game, and we needed every bit of it.

"Charity played real well as far as controlling the tempo of the game and getting the ball to the people she needed to get it to. She’s such a cerebral player to be just a freshman. She has an extremely high basketball IQ."

Kyiesha Mills and Minor scored eight points each, and Brown had seven.

Blutcher had 19 points to lead the Lady Tigers (16-16). Tan Walker had eight points, and Brittany Brown scored six.

 

Reach Andrew Carroll at andrew.carroll@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0223.