After winning the District 11-A regular season title, the Cornersville Lady Bulldogs (21-6) were denied the conference tournament crown Monday night, as they suffered an emotionally draining 78-73 double overtime loss to second seeded Moore County (18-12) at Richland High School.
Although the Lady Bulldogs had pulled out a pair of hard fought victories over the Raiderettes during the regular season, the third time proved to be the charm for Moore County.
Hindered by a sluggish start, Cornersville trailed nearly all 32 minutes of regulation, but managed to overcome a seven-point deficit in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime tied at 55-55. The Raiderettes then rallied from a four-point deficit in the first overtime and knotted the game at 66-66 by the end of the extra session before outscoring CHS 12-7 in the second OT to end a three-game losing streak to the Lady Bulldogs.
Despite the setback to Moore County, Cornersville will host Summertown in the first round of the Region 6-A tournament Friday night.
"We've taken all of our losses and tried to make them into productive losses and that's what we'll try to do with this one. The first thing we need to learn is that we can't fall behind by eight or nine points right away against a good team," said CHS head coach Micah Landers.
The Lady Bulldogs shot a respectable 46 percent from the field (19-41) and hit 33-of-39 free throws, but struggled against the Raiderettes full court pressure and committed 26 turnovers, including nine in the first period alone.
"You can say you're ready for their pressure all you want, but until you actually face it, it's a different story. We just had too many turnovers early," said Landers.
Junior guard Sara Nelms showed no ill effects from the leg injury she suffered against Richland four days earlier, as she poured in 29 points on 11-of-16 shooting to lead Cornersville.
Brittny Wheeler gave the Lady Bulldogs a big lift off the bench and scored 12 of her career high 13 points in the first half.
Haley Fagan hit several clutch foul shots down the stretch to help keep CHS in the game and finished with 13 points as well, while Sarah King added 11 points and nine rebounds. Makenzie Hopkins also notched five points, four steals, and two blocked shots, and Morgan Carroll had two points.
Moore County, conversely, experienced some shaky moments at the charity stripe and missed 14-of-36 foul shots, but finished with 26 field goals on 43 percent shooting thanks to a 14-2 edge on the offensive glass.
Heather Vann paced the Raiderettes with 29 points, while Fallon Boyce and Rachel Garland tallied 14 points apiece.
Moore County knocked the Lady Bulldogs back on their heels early on, as they raced out to a 22-10 lead late in the first quarter despite two treys from Wheeler.
CHS eventually gained their bearings and put together a 10-0 run behind eight points from Nelms to slice the deficit to 22-20 early in the second period.
After the Raiderettes countered with a 13-6 spurt to push their lead to 35-26, Cornersville tallied the final four points of the half on a Fagan free throw and a three-point play by Nelms to narrow the gap to 35-30 at the break.
In the third, Moore County outscored the Lady Bulldogs 11-7 through the first seven and a half minutes of the quarter to open up a 46-37 advantage, but Nelms hit a couple of runners in the final 25 seconds of the stanza to pull CHS within 46-41.
The Raiderettes extended their lead to seven points three times in the fourth and held a 52-45 advantage with 3:13 left before Cornersville engineered an 8-1 run, highlighted by a Nelms three-point play, to knot the score at 53-53 with :34 remaining.
After Vann hit two free throws with 7.6 seconds left to give the Raiderettes a 55-53 lead, Hopkins had a layup attempt blocked by Vann on the Lady Bulldogs' ensuing possession. Fagan though was fouled during a wild scramble for the ball and made two free throws with no time left on the clock to send the game into overtime.
CHS then jumped out to a 61-57 advantage midway through the extra session thanks to a Nelms jumper and two foul shots apiece by King and Fagan but the Raiderettes responded with a 7-2 run to claim a 64-63 lead with 42.9 seconds remaining.
After Fagan hit a couple of free throws to put the Lady Bulldogs up 65-64, Wheeler made one of two foul shots to make it 66-64 with 24.6 seconds left, before Vann converted two free throws with :15 remaining to knot the contest at 66-66.
In the second overtime, Nelms nailed a jumper to give Cornersville a 68-66 lead, but the Raiderettes scored 10 of the next 11 points to seize a 76-69 advantage with :25 remaining.
Nelms hit two free throws to trim the deficit to 76-71, but Moore County tacked on a couple of foul shots to extend their lead to 78-71 with :08 left before Nelms scored on a layup for the 78-73 final.