Top moments in sports in 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Jessica "The Assasin" McQueen is followed out of the tunnel at the Murphy Center by Jakerra Simmons before the Class AA State Title game versus Milan

The legend of Lulu

You get to vote for the greatest news story in Marshall County in 2008.

I picked four from sports. I could have extended the list quite a bit more, but these four stick out the most in my mind when I try to compile a list.

Here is the first of the four selections I made. They are in no particular order.

I am standing inside the media box down the third base line, photographing the Cornersville Lady Bulldogs at the TSSAA Spring Fling versus Huntingdon. It was May 22, a loser's bracket afternoon game that was in the bottom of the seventh and Cornersville was up for their last at bat.

Two outs now, Jessica King on first, but it looks like Huntingdon's standout pitcher Brooke Thomas was going to finish her two-hit gem, ending a remarkable season for the Lady Dawgs.

Cornersville has had a great season and there is no shame losing here. Man, I said, I am glad Louis is here to do the post game interview, I hate seeing the pain.

Up stepped LuLu.

Cornersville freshman Lindsey Dalton is a natural; you can just see it in her eyes, like many of the great players I have seen in my three plus years at the Tribune.

Thomas got two strikes on Dalton and then something happened that I will never forget. LuLu got a fastball and lasered it over the left field fence for the walk-off homerun, setting off one of the biggest fan eruptions I have been witness to.

It was a thing of beauty! An instant classic of a moment, the legend of LuLu was born on her Spring Ding that will forever be remembered as one of the greatest sports moments in this county, ever.

Hightower rolls with Tide

I have been watching college football on TV forever. College football probably ranks as my top viewing sport. Most of you know that I am a fan of the Fightin Irish from Notre Dame and during my youth, Notre Dame ruled the east coast. They were on TV all time and they always played one of the toughest schedules of any team so I saw many of the other legendary teams play on Saturday afternoon.

One my favorite parts of a broadcast is when they would introduce the starting lineups, telling where each player is from and I always looked for guys from New Jersey or when I moved here, Tennessee and New Jersey. I recognized towns they were from, lately some local kids I have heard about, but never knew anyone who had gone to one of these great football schools and played.

I do now, his name is Dont'a Hightower.

There was no doubt in my mind that when Hightower signed on to play for Alabama that he was going to be a great player. Hightower had told me that he had always dreamed of playing on TV and one day becoming a pro athlete. I believed him.

Crimson Tide head football coach Nick Saban believed in Hightower too, he gave him a shot and the freshman linebacker improved day by day over the summer until finally getting the word, just weeks before the opener that he would be in the starting lineup opening day versus Clemson, at the Georgia Dome, on national TV.

That was it for me. It was special and a great and prideful moment for Marshall County. I was extremely happy for Hightower and his entire family. The kid had made it!

Believe it or not, I had to miss his opening game. I was in Murfreesboro at one of my daughter's travel softball tournaments, but I was not going to miss anything because of Will and Cassie Thomason. Bleed the crimson, both of them, and Mad Dog. We had direct line to line cell phone coverage from Lewisburg via play by play from Chase Perryman and color by Wayne Davis.

I vividly remember the moment when Hightower recovered the early fumble and said to myself, he belongs. Mr. Football went straight into the fire in Tuscaloosa, started every game, eventually earning first team All-Freshman honors in the SEC.

Alabama went on to win the Clemson game and eleven more in a row after that before eventually losing to Florida in the SEC championship.

By the way, Gumby, Scott Walls, and the girls from Force "96" won the tournament that night. Might be number five, LOL.

Lady Rockets graduate to big time

The Forrest Lady Rockets went from bridesmaids to champions on the softball diamonds at the Spring Fling in a storybook season that ended with Becky Cheatham and the "Field of Dreams" girls giving the private schools a lesson in determination and teamwork.

Gaby Bussell, the lone senior on the squad graduated on the field after the championship win over Trinity Christian, cementing her place as the greatest female athlete to ever play at Forrest.

This was a team that would simply not be denied their place in history. Forrest had captured every district championship for 14 years leading up to the state tournament and was making their fourth consecutive trip to Murfreesboro. The Lady Rockets went 26-6 in the regular season with an undefeated district and region record.

The two-time state runners-up were ready.

They sweep through the district and region tournaments before opening against Huntingdon in the state opener. They won 1-0 in a nail-biter when Amanda Daughrity scored from third on a passed ball in the bottom of the eighth.

In round two, Gaby Bussell drove home Brianda Elmore on a sacrifice fly to cap a three-run top of the seventh, going ahead 5-2 over Friendship Christian. All-State hurler Shelby Stinnett closed the door in the home half of the seventh, sending the Lady Rockets to a third round match-up with Trinity Christian.

Forrest suffered their first defeat in ten games when they were shut-out 2-0, sending Forrest directly into the path of the Cornersville Bulldogs, a team that had beaten the Lady Rockets 5-1 earlier in the year at the Chik-Fil-A Classic.

The huge crowd was witness to an intense inter-Marshall County battle, seeing the Lady Rockets take a 2-0 lead into the seventh when the Lady Dawgs tied the game on an RBI single by Sara King.

In the bottom of the inning, fate's dealing showed up in the Lady Rockets' dugout. Amada Daughrity beat out a bunt single and took off for second with Chelsea Johnson in the batter's box.

Daughrity raced in safe, looking up to see the throw from the catcher had sailed into center field and no one was anywhere close to getting the ball. Daughrity sped around third, scoring the winning run as the Lady Rocket dugout emptied in hysteria.

Forrest would now have the unenviable task of beating Trinity Christian twice to claim the Class A title.

In game one, Trinity jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, prancing and dancing before Forrest exploded, knocking the ball around the park, humbling the Lady Lions in a 10-4 rout.

Now it was on, one game for the title.

Trinity was mad and they scored four runs in the first inning.

Forrest came back with two in the third to cut the lead in half and the game went to the seventh and final inning.

Daughrity singled to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Johnson struck out before Haley Mathis singled into the shortstop hole, sending Daughrity to third.

Brianda Elmore hit a laser to short that was misplayed, scoring Daughrity. Stinnett advanced both runners, sending Heather James to the plate. James crushed a pitch into the right field gap that scored both runners to put Forrest up 5-4, going to the bottom of the inning.

What happened next had to be fate.

Trinity got their first two runners on and the pressure was on the Lady Rockets. Brittany Yates stepped into the batters box and grounded a ball right to Rachel "Bobcat" Curtis at third, who stepped on the bag and threw to Elmore at first for the improbable double play. Stinnett reared back to whiff the last batter, setting off a monstrous celebration on the dusty dirt in Murfreesboro.

Bussell donned her gap and gown as she and the Lady Rockets graduated to the big time.

Tigerettes leap to fourth state title

Domination is the only way to describe the 2007-2008-basketball season for the Marshall County High School Tigerettes.

The Tigerettes were on a mission and fulfilled the plan to near perfection, going 36-6 on a campaign that included 14 consecutive victories to close the season, capped by the school's fourth state title.

Lewisburg had come up just one game short the year before and from that second on, worked as hard as any team had ever worked before to get back to Murfreesboro.

Coach David Steely and his squad took on all comers from the first day of camp, hardening the squad with all the armor they would need for the title run.

Bing, bang, boom they knocked off opponent after opponent, starting the season 13-1 leading up to the Christmas tournament action. Smyrna knocked off the Tigerettes on their home court, hardening them even more.

MCHS won five more in a row before they showed their human side, losing two straight heartbreakers to Lewis County and Lawrence County as January came to a close.

Now the true resolve was there. They did not lose again and as of press time of this article, have not lost yet.

They mangled every team at the district tournament, the region tournament, and in the sub-state to punch their ticket back to the Promised Land.

In round one at the Murphy Center, the Tigerettes blew number one ranked Gibson County out of the building in a 74-45 mauling.

Round two would not be as easy and to many observers was the toughest game the Tigerettes played all season. Another number one, McMinn Central was tough, but not tough enough for the Tigerettes who prevailed in the nip and tuck contest thanks to a big time ice cold three-pointer by Jessica "The Assassin" McQueen that put the Tigerettes up for good with 1:19 left in the contest.

As they would do one day later, Marshall County iced the game from the free throw line.

Unbelievable as it may sound, the Tigerettes were still considered the underdog versus a speedy Milan team, but they did not care.

Milan did not have a chance. It was a leap year and the Tigerettes had won in the leap years of 1972, 1976, and 1980.

The sun was shining on Steely's squad and the Tigerettes burned brighter than a super nova on the court on that eighth day of March.

The Steely resolve had worked. There would be no intimidation and it would be the Tigerettes who dictated play on the court.

The two championship teams played the first three quarters back and forth and the score was tied at 30-30 going into the last eight minutes.

Danika "The Glove" Hopkins, always known for her tenacious defense hit a jumper at the 7:20 mark of the quarter to put the Lewisburg legends up 32-30 and they never trailed after that.

The pressure was not on Marshall County any longer. They loved it and took it to the Lady Bulldogs the rest of the game, outscoring Milan 14-5 in the decisive period to win going away, 44-35.

Lauren March was voted the tournament MVP and the team welcomed home crown number four and then welcomed home all legendary past championship Tigerette squads at the annual banquet, fortifying the Tigerette lore.