The loss spoiled Handley’s first trip as far as the state semifinals since 1961, when the Tigers lost to Priceville in the Class A state final.
Handley finished its season 26-8, while J.O. Johnson (22-8) advanced to Saturday’s 3 p.m. final against Madison County.
Handley got 32 points from Trae Dunson and led for much of the first half and deep into the third quarter. The Tigers went up by 10 point twice and led 34-24 at halftime.
Missed free throws proved costly. So did 18 turnovers, 15 of which came on J.O. Johnson steals. The Jaguars scored 23 points off turnovers.
J.O. Johnson tied the game twice in the third quarter then took the lead, 47-45, on Ervin Garner’s layup to open the fourth quarter.
Handley never led in the fourth quarter but tied the game at 56 on two Trae Kyles free throws with 4:00 to play.
Charles Woodard answered with a layup, and the Jaguars led the rest of the way.
Keon Ray led J.O. Johnson with 17 points. Woodard and Lionel Love had 11 apiece.
Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jmedley_star.