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MONTGOMERY — In a close contest throughout, Elba made the key plays down the stretch and played strong defense to defeat Loachapoka 38-32 in the semifinals of the Class 1A Southeast Regional on Thursday.

Loachapoka failed to score in the final five minutes and 20 seconds in the loss to the Lady Tigers. The loss marked the second straight year in which the Lady Indians fell in the regional semis.

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 answer 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.

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

Elba hit 11 of 18 free throws in 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.

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