Lady Bulldogs surge past Santa Fe
Good things come in threes. The Cornersville Lady Bulldogs (17-10) captured their third straight District 11-A tournament championship on Monday night by defeating the Santa Fe Wildcats 48-35 at Mt. Pleasant High School.
Having lost to Cornersville in the District title game each of the last two years, the second seeded Lady Wildcats (16-13) gave CHS all they could handle in the first half and held a 18-16 lead at the break.
The Lady Bulldogs, however, came on strong in the second half and outscored Santa Fe 32-17 over the final two quarters to record their ninth consecutive victory over the Lady Wildcats.
"It feels great to win the District again," said Cornersville senior point guard and tournament MVP Makenzie Hopkins. "We got motivated in the locker room at halftime. I told the rest of the girls to keep playing hard and take care of the ball when we got the lead."
Bolstered by a 10-of-16 shooting performance in the second half, CHS shot 45 percent (17-of-38) from the field overall, which included a 5-of-17 effort from three-point range.
Hopkins spearheaded the Lady Bulldogs' second half offensive surge by pouring in 12 of her game high 15 points during that span to go along with four assists and five steals.
Martha Jane McMasters followed Hopkins with eight points, while Brittany Umbles and Kaitlyn Rogers both added seven points with Umbles grabbing eight rebounds. Ashley Umbles tallied six points and nine rebounds for Cornersville as well and Ashley Warren and Kaleigh Welch chipped in three and two points respectively.
"Makenzie played bigger than her numbers indicate and made some clutch baskets when we needed them," said CHS coach Micah Landers. "I think the seniors were determined to keep the streak going and it meant a lot to them."
Although Santa Fe held a 11-5 edge on the offensive glass and outrebounded the Lady Bulldogs 31-27, Cornersville limited the Lady Wildcats to just 12 field goals on 25 percent shooting, which included a 2-of-17 performance from beyond the arc.
Allison Pack paced Santa Fe with 13 points, while Baylee Hemphill, Haley Warf, and Katie Faulkner notched nine, seven, and six points respectively. After tallying 19 points against Richland in the tournament semifinals, Lady Wildcat center Jenson White was held scoreless by CHS' low post trio of Rogers, Ashley Umbles, and Brittany Umbles.
The Lady Bulldogs jumped out to an early 6-0 lead behind treys from McMasters and Hopkins, before Santa Fe outscored CHS 14-6 over the final 6:30 of the first quarter to seize a 14-12 advantage.
Cornersville pulled ahead 16-14 early in the second quarter on a layup by Brittany Umbles and a Warren jumper, but the Lady Wildcats notched the last four points of the half to take a 18-16 lead into the break.
Hopkins then gave the Lady Bulldogs a shot in the arm early in the third quarter by knocking down two threes and a pair of foul shots in a span of 1:20 to stake CHS to a 24-21 advantage.
After Brittany Umbles hit one-of-two free throws to make it 25-21, Santa Fe trimmed the deficit to 25-22 on a foul shot by Warf, before the Lady Bulldogs put together a 7-1 run on the strength of a McMasters trey and layups from Hopkins and Brittany Umbles to push their lead to 32-23 late in the third period.
Following a three by Pack, which closed the gap to 32-26 at the end of the third quarter, Cornersville outscored the Lady Wildcats 8-4 through the first 6:25 of the fourth with the aid of a Hopkins layup and six free throws to open up a 40-30 advantage.
Hemphill tallied five of the next seven points to cut the deficit to 42-35 with :37, but the Lady Bulldogs closed the game with a 6-0 spurt thanks to layups from Rogers, Ashley Umbles, and Welch to cap their 48-35 triumph.
Cornersville returns to action on Friday night when they host Loretto at 6 p.m. in the first round of the Region 6-A tournament.