Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday coach West, happy birthday to you!
That was the joyful song the Marshall County Tigerettes sang to their head coach Boyd West after coming from behind to knock off Lewis County 55-48 in the District 10-AA tournament title game at Spring Hill Monday night.
The victory was number twenty-nine a row on the season and 43 straight for the Tigerettes since taking the bark out of the Milan Lady Bulldogs in last year's Class AA state championship triumph.
"It's a good birthday present," said West. "I told the girls after the game that it was one of the nicest gifts I have ever received in my 46 years. Being down like that and coming back, and fighting uphill was a special way to win."
The undefeated West, who was named District 10-AA Coach of the Year in the post-game festivities, celebrated his birthday by giving Lewis County head coach Larry Helton a present in the form of a 1-3-1 zone defense, a tactic he had not used in several years.
West said, "I did something tonight I have not done in many years when I decided to go to the 1-3-1 zone defense. We knew we had to stop their dribble penetration and the girls did an excellent job of doing that."
Lewis County did get inside the MCHS zone early, leading by five points 20-15 after the first quarter.
Helton's girls built the lead to as many as eight points early in the second period before the Tigerettes responded with an eight-zero run capped off by an Artavia Bryant three-pointer that tied the game at 23 with 4:23 left in the first half.
Lewis County would stave off the Tigerette charge, outscoring Marshall County 10-6 over the remaining time in the second period to lead 33-29 at halftime.
The lead would grow again for Lewis County, this time to 37-31 with 6:29 left in the third quarter when the Tigerette defense changed the game, holding the Lady Panthers scoreless into the fourth period.
The Tigerettes forced Lewis County into five turnovers during the time span and finally took the lead for good at 38-37 on a Jakerra Simmons rebound and put-back at the 2:05 mark.
That was the score going into the final period of the title game and Bryant added three more to the Tigerette lead on their first touch, draining a long, dead-eye missile from the top of the circle for a 41-37 lead.
Lewis County's Chynna Helton hit one of two from the line with two minutes gone in the fourth stanza to break the Lady Panther scoring drought.
Three possessions later, on an out of bounds play from under their own basket, Lauren March threaded the needle on a pass out of a set play to NeNe Mclean, who laid it in and was fouled. McLean converted the three-point play, building the Tigerette lead to 44-38.
C. C. Tibbs, who led the Lady Panthers in scoring with 15 points in the ballgame, turned tit for tat, converting her own three-point play under the basket, keeping Lewis County close at 44-41.
Close and tight defense was the tone for both squads over next several minutes with March blocking three shots, staving off the Lewis County dribble penetration.
Marshall County had a chance to put the Lady Panthers away from the foul line, but hit on just two of eight from the charity stripe and led by just five points at 46-41 with just over a minute to play.
Tibbs hit two free throws to inch the Lady Panthers to within three points before LaRhonda O'Neal stepped to the line for two shots with .56 left in the ballgame.
O'Neal drained both attempts for a five-point lead and Lewis County missed the front end of a one and one with 46 seconds left.
Simmons was fouled after the Lewis County miss and iced the game, floating in two perfect foul shots, giving the Tigerettes a 50-43 lead with just 45 ticks remaining in the ballgame.
Lewis County would not have enough left in the tank, falling for the second time in three years to the Tigerettes in the district tournament title game.
West and Helton would embrace after the game with the Lewis County coach saying to West, "We will see you next Wednesday."
Next Wednesday (March 4) is the dated slated for the Region 5-AA championship game.
The Tigerettes go for win number thirty on the season at home tonight in a first round Region 5-AA match-up with District 9-AA fourth place finisher Ezell-Harding (13-16) at 7pm.
"Before we even think about next Wednesday, we are going to go for number thirty Friday night with an attitude of coming ready to play Ezell-Harding," said West.
March, who added to her long list of careers honors with both district all-season and all-tournament MVP awards after the game, led the Tigerettes in scoring with 17 points.
The sharp shooting Bryant ended up with four treys for 12 points, Simmons (all-district academic selection) scored 9, McLean had 6, DaRhonda O'Neal 5, LaRhonda O'Neal 4, and Andraya Tears scored 2.