Neville veteran guard PD McCraney vigorously shook his leg on the bench after exiting the game with a cramp late in the third quarter. McCraney limped around but ultimately came back into the game and scored 10 fourth-quarter points in a 55-54 second round thriller over No. 13 (13-10) Helen Cox.
"I just thought about what happened last year, and I felt like I didn't do enough and we lost in the first round," McCraney said. "That was the last thing I wanted to do, was to lose again."
With the victory, the (15-8) Tigers advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2012. In order to do so, the Tigers had to sweat out a back-and-forth fourth quarter that featured five lead changes. The last one occurred when McCraney shot a high-arching floater and dropped it in the bucket with 22 seconds remaining.
"I felt like I had to make a play," the junior guard said. "The kid from the other team, he's actually ranked higher than me. So coming into the game, I felt like I had to outplay him."
The second half transformed into a free throw marathon, and the Tigers certainly made theirs count down the stretch. Neville hit 10-of-16 free throws, as opposed to the Cougars hitting just 17-of-29 attempts.
"You have to give them credit because those dudes played hard," Neville head coach Phillip Craig said. "It shouldn't have been this close, but don't get me wrong. I'm happy our team won."
The Cougars owned the glass in the loss, but the Tigers scratched and clawed to overcome a physical disadvantage. McCraney scored 22 points for the Tigers, while others like McKennald Armstead scored eight points in the second half.
"We found a way to win," Craig said. "And don't get me wrong I would love to play good basketball. I don't think we played well, but we still found a way to win."
Neville had a sluggish start en route to trailing 6-0 before McCraney put the team on his back with four minutes to go in the first quarter. McCraney scored nine points in a 2:08 span. McCraney also found a wide open Joe Arthur in the corner for a trey.
Led by McCraney's diverse attack, the Tigers went on an 18-4 run that carried over into the second quarter. Neville led by as many eight, but the second quarter was void of many field goals from the Tigers. In fact, Neville had just three.
After Brady Craig's 3-pointer deep into the half, Helen Cox finished used a 4-0 run to reduce the Tigers' lead to 23-21 at the break.