The Cornersville Lady Bulldogs climbed to the top of the District 11-A mountain Tuesday night when they defeated longtime nemesis Moore County 48-44 at home in front of a packed house to capture the league's regular season title.
After rallying from a couple of five-point deficits in the second half, the Lady Bulldogs found themselves locked in a 40-40 tie with the Raiderettes midway through the fourth quarter. Sophomore forward Haley Fagan then nailed a clutch three-pointer with 2:38 left to put Cornersville up 43-40, before CHS hit five free throws in the final 1:44 of the contest to hold on for the four-point victory.
Although both teams finished with identical 10-2 records in District play, the Lady Bulldogs swept the regular season series against Moore County and will be the top seed in the upcoming postseason tournament.
"We have some goals and in order to achieve those goals I felt we had to win tonight. This is a dress rehearsal for the postseason," said Cornersville head coach Micah Landers. "We finished 11-1 at home this season and our crowd was outstanding tonight. Looking at those stands packed full of people really gave us a lift."
CHS shot just 28 percent (11-39) through the first three periods, but stepped up their play down the stretch and hit 4 of 7 field goal attempts in the fourth quarter, including a pair of treys, to finish 15 of 46 from the floor overall. The Lady Bulldogs also outscored the Raiderettes 15-9 at the foul line and held a 12-9 edge on the offensive glass, while out rebounding Moore County 32-29 overall.
"I was afraid we got tired in the third quarter. We looked fatigued right then. When we were able to battle back and tie the game that seemed to carry us the rest of the way," said Landers.
Guard Sara Nelms led Cornersville with 12 points and four assists, while Sarah King tallied 11 points, 10 rebounds, and four steals. Fagan, meanwhile, came up big for the Lady Bulldogs during crunch time and scored all seven of her points in the last three minutes of the game. Morgan Carroll also added seven points and seven rebounds, while Makenzie Hopkins, Abbey Holder, and Courtney Cook each had three points. Brittny Wheeler rounded out the scoring for CHS with two points.
Moore County, conversely, tightened up in the final period, as they hit just 3 of 16 shots over the last eight minutes and finished with 17 field goals on 35 percent shooting.
Point guard Rachel Garland paced the Raiderettes with 10 points, while Fallon Boyce and Heather Vann notched nine and eight points respectively.
Cornersville got off to a strong start and jumped out to a 13-6 lead late in the first quarter with the help of four points from Carroll and a three-pointer by Holder.
Moore County trimmed the deficit to 13-9 with less than a minute left in the first, but the Lady Bulldogs responded with a 7-4 spurt, highlighted by a Nelms three-point play, to open up a 20-13 advantage with 5:52 remaining in the second.
CHS' offense suddenly went cold, however, and the Raiderettes outscored Cornersville 11-4 the rest of the half to tie the game at 24-24, before tallying five of the first six points of the third quarter to grab a 30-25 advantage.
The Lady Bulldogs put together a 7-2 run, capped by a Cook three-point play, to knot the game at 32-32 late in the third, but Moore County followed that with an 8-3 burst to seize a 40-35 lead with 5:15 left in the fourth.
Nelms though steadied the ship for CHS and scored the next five points on a layup and a trey to knot the contest at 40-40, before Fagan drilled a three from the left wing to give the Lady Bulldogs a 43-40 advantage.
"Sara Nelms got her girl to sink in and she kicked the ball out to me," said Fagan. "It felt very good and it gave me some confidence because before that my shots weren't falling."
Vann sandwiched a couple of layups around two free throws by Fagan to slice the deficit to 45-44, but Fagan hit two more foul shots with 23.5 seconds remaining to stretch Cornersville's lead to 47-44.
Fagan then intercepted a Raiderette pass on Moore County's ensuing offensive possession before Hopkins converted 1 of 2 free throws with 11.5 second left to seal the Lady Bulldogs 48-44 victory.