DECATUR — There is a before-Christmas team and an after-Christmas team, Muscle Shoals girls basketball coach Blair Woods explained to the Trojans on Monday. The Decatur Orthopaedic Clinic Classic was the first chance to see what the after-Christmas Trojans look like.

Overall, the early results are promising. A rough third quarter Monday was costly, though, as Austin beat Muscle Shoals 41-34 in the championship game.

If not for Morgan Calvert’s putback with two seconds left in the period, Muscle Shoals would have failed to score in the third quarter. A 24-19 halftime deficit became 33-21, and it could have been worse if Austin had not had a few of its own mistakes.

Muscle Shoals beat James Clemens and Austin beat Grissom on Monday morning, and both the Trojans and Black Bears had a few extra turnovers, missed foul shots and missed layups in the final that suggested tired legs.

“Our third quarter was probably the worst basketball we’ve played all season,” Woods said. “And we’re a good team, but we can’t take off for a whole quarter. Games like this, where both teams are tired, it’s a matter of heart. Who wants it the most? That’s usually who’s going to come away with the win.”

Muscle Shoals (10-7) didn’t give up. Sara Puckett hit a pair of free throws, and then Makiyah Horrison hit a corner 3 and scored on a putback to cut the deficit to 33-28.

But Austin (16-3) scored five straight points and held on to win.

“I was very proud of how they came out and responded in the fourth quarter because I’ve seen teams in the past, when they get down 10, it’s all over with. They end up down 30 at the end of the game,” Woods said. “But our girls showed that they have the capability to fight, finish and win. I think we ran out of time and gas.”

Puckett, Horrison and Treyvia Pruitt represented Muscle Shoals on the all-tournament team. Austin’s Bri Hodges was named MVP.

Tashanti Watkins scored 14 points for Austin and Hodges added 11.

Puckett, the 6-1 junior who has dozens of Division I scholarship offers, led the Trojans in scoring each game of the four-round event. She had 14 in the final, with the sophomore Horrison and junior Pruitt each adding eight.

“We haven’t seen a box and one in a few games,” Woods said. “ … I think it kind of caught us by surprise. We have girls that can step up and score. They’ve just got to know, hey, they’re taking Sara out, we’ve got to go and we’ve got to score.”

Muscle Shoals earned its spot in the finals with wins over Buckhorn, Vestavia Hills and James Clemens. The Trojans, who are in Class 6A, are trying to make a second straight appearance at the Northwest Regionals in Hanceville.

“Oh man, I thought we did really well. I saw a whole lot of bright spots,” Woods said of her team’s work in the tournament. “We played some really tough competition and some teams that we’ve never seen before, don’t really know much about, that are really good teams, and were able to win. And obviously Austin is a very good team.

“So, I was proud of what we did in this tournament. I think we’re ready to go into area play and carry out the rest of this season.”

Muscle Shoals 63, James Clemens 37: Puckett scored 28 points as the Trojans secured a spot in the finals. Pruitt had nine of her 11 points in the second quarter, and eighth-grader Tamora Brown added nine points.

Muscle Shoals 34, Vestavia Hills 32: Puckett scored eight of the team’s nine fourth-quarter points to finish with 16 as the Trojans held off a Vestavia Hills team Woods complimented for its discipline. Pruitt scored seven and Horrison five.

Muscle Shoals 43, Buckhorn 41: Horrison and Puckett each scored four points in the fourth quarter to help the Trojans hold off Buckhorn. Puckett had 20 points and Horrison 11. Samya Whiteside, a sophomore, scored three points in the fourth quarter to finish with seven.

Contact Craig at Follow him on Twitter: @TD_CraigThomas


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