The Tigerettes are now in familiar territory, traveling west to McNairy Central (28-5) Saturday night for a sub-state game after their 46-35 loss Wednesday night in the Region 5-AA championship game at Spring Hill.
MCHS has lost a regional final game fives before and managed to overcome the adversity of being on the road to win the contest and move to the state tournament. In 1976 and 1980 the Tigerettes were the ultimate road warriors as they went on to win the state championship under Coach Don Steely.
They were loose, they were strong, and the Tigerettes were definitely ready for the title match-up as they were the ones who came out of the gate like wild mustangs. The first period was typical Tigerette basketball with a balanced scoring attack, taking advantage of some up-tempo opportunities to score easy transition baskets.
The defense was also revved up and ready to pounce as the 10-AA champs swarmed the surprised David Lipscomp Lady Mustangs and came up with four turnovers to lead 15-12 at the end of the quarter. Five different players scored for the Tigerettes with Jessica McQueen leading the way with two 3's and Jakerra Simmons and Lauren March with four points apiece.
The second quarter remained an up-tempo contest as the Tigerette defense forced several unforced Lady Mustang errors. Addricka O'Neal once again came off the bench to spark the Tigerettes with her own brand of high octane energy. On one Lipscomb possession, O'Neal stepped in front of an unsuspecting opponent and took a charge that sent her flying and sent the Marshall County crowd into frenzy.
O'Neal also had two steals in the period, the second one a clean pick and run all the way to the basket for a lay-in. Nene McLean also sparked the Tigerettes on offense off the bench as she sliced through the Lipscomb defense to score twice in the lane. The Lewisburg girls led 23-19 at the half and looked poised to bring home the title.
Mustang defense cages Tigerettes in 4th quarter
The charge continued after the half as the Tigerettes played inspired ball and controlled the third quarter with an inside-outside attack that saw scoring from Simmons, Lauren March, and McKenna Moffett in the paint, while McLean hit a big three-pointer. The Tigerettes led 32-30 going into the final period, all the while looking like they were ready to take the victory.
The Lady Mustangs scored the first four points of the period to take a 34-32 lead and trouble was brewing for the Tigerettes when Lauren march picked up her fourth personal with seven minutes remaining. Head Coach David Steely had no choice but to substitute for March and David Lipscomb immediately took advantage from underneath to go up four points. Steely re-inserted March and two possessions later she was whistled for her final foul that sent her to the bench for good.
With March out of the line-up the Lady Mustangs pushed up their defense to cause some turnovers from MCHS and went deep to the post on offense to score fourteen straight points and put the game away 46-35.
While the margin of victory was double digits, David Lipscomb veteran head coach Ernie Smith did not see it as an easy victory at all. "They played a super game, there were no easy baskets because their defense was incredibly tenacious," Smith stated after the game. He added, "They were as tough as anybody we played all season."
The Tigerettes will make the three and a half hour trip to Selma for the 7:00pm start Saturday night versus McNairy with history on their side and with a fire in their belly. "We have talked about playing in a sub-state game for a long time, Steely said, and we will put this game behind us and be ready."