Tigerettes win heart stopper over Columbia

Wednesday, November 25, 2009
DaRhonda O'Neal (4) steps to the line and sinks the game winning free-throws with 2.3 seconds left, lifting the Tigerettes to a 39-37 victory over Columbia Central.

Coming into Monday night's game versus Columbia Central, the Marshall County Tigerettes were on the short end of a 2-10 record versus the Lady Lions since 2002 with the last Lewisburg win coming on Dec. 19, 2003 when MCHS stole a 41-37 victory in Maury County.

On Monday at Dottie Kelso Memorial Gymnasium in Lewisburg, the Tigerettes stole another one, winning 39-37 on two foul shots by DaRhonda O'Neal with 2.3 seconds left.

Before the ballgame, MCHS head coach Boyd West said, "We have our hands full tonight."

And they did.

The Lady Lions are a quick, talented, and high scoring team and West knew it would be an early test for his young and inexperienced squad of Tigerettes.

Marshall County, minus most of the big guns from the 2007-2008 championship team will rely on a pressing defense, long range shooting, and some help from sophomore Keyerra Allen in the post.

West received all three prongs Monday.

Lewisburg's defense was glued to Columbia the entire game, continually frustrating the Lady Lions into fouls and turnovers.

The long range bombing was there when they needed it, coming exclusively from junior Marina Harwell who nailed the Tigerettes only three treys in the ballgame, all in crucial situations.

In the post, Allen was the superior force for the night, scoring 9 points, but more importantly, controlling the backboards.

Mary Medley also had a big game for the Tigerettes down deep, hauling in several key rebounds and scoring 4 points.

The Tigerettes played the role of the comeback Cats throughout the ballgame, coming back from a seven-point deficit in the first quarter to trail by one after Harwell drained two late three's.

In the second quarter, an Allen bucket down deep on their first possession gave them a 17-16 lead that quickly evaporated into a five-point, 24-19 deficit by halftime.

In quarter number three, the Lady Lions came out and pounced on MCHS, out-scoring the home squad 7-4 to take a 31-23 lead with just over two minutes left in the period.

The Tigerettes got back in the game on an untimely technical foul on Columbia Central with 2:08 left that led to a four-point gain for MCHS.

The Tigerettes sliced the lead to one point when the O'Neal twins teamed up on a steal and bucket with 56.8 ticks left in the quarter, leaving MCHS just one point shy of the Lady Lions, 31-30.

Starting period number four, Allen was whistled for foul number three and four on consecutive possessions, sending her to the bench.

Undaunted, MCHS continued to pressure, holding Columbia scoreless until the Tigerettes squeezed out in front 32-31 on a DaRhonda O'Neal jumper with 4:55 left.

The game see-sawed back and forth and with 2:10 left, Columbia was whistled for another technical, giving MCHS a chance to break free.

They could not take advantage of the opportunity, making just one of four free throws and turning the ball over after the attempts.

With the score tied at 35, a pull-up jumper by Mulika Muhammad gave the Lady Lions a two-point lead at 37-35.

Marshall County missed at the other end, but got a crucial rebound and called timeout with 40.4 seconds left.

Allen was back in the game with her four fouls and she took a pass from DeLorean Taylor down deep and swished the short jumper, tying the game at 37 with 29 ticks remaining.

Columbia Central called timeout with 6.7 seconds left.

West knew what was coming and put DaRhonda O'Neal on the ball in hopes of getting an offensive foul or a missed shot attempt.

The MCHS coach bet right, coming up with the straight flush when O'Neal stepped in for the charge, sending her to the line for two shots with just 2.3 seconds remaining in the contest.

O'Neal stepped up and buried both attempts, making it 39-37.

West said after the game, "I knew DaRhonda was fixing to put them in. That is why I called that play. I had a feeling if they attacked and spun that they would foul her. She is probably one of our best free throw shooters. When she went to the line I felt good and that is why I sent everybody back."

A desperation heave by Columbia fell short as the MCHS team and crowd went triumphantly crazy.

West added, "I learned this team does not quit, they gutted it up. One of the things we knew coming into this game was no matter what the record is or how good these teams are, Columbia and Marshall County is a big rivalry. We know a lot of these kids, they play AAU together and neither of them wanted to lose. I thought this was a big step up for us to win this ballgame."

The Tigerettes won their third game in a row, taking a road victory at Tullahoma 45-26 Tuesday night.

Marina Harwell led the Tigerettes with 19 points (4 three-pointers), Artavia Bryant had 9, DaRhonda O'Neal netted 8, De'Lorean Taylor scored 5, and Mary Medley and LaRhonda O'Neal had 2 points each.