Tigerettes come close to upset
There is no doubt about the fact that the Tigerettes (4-6, 0-2) have come a long way in a short period of time under new coach David Steely.
But just how far along were they was the question entering Friday night's game against perennial power Christ Presbyterian Academy (7-1, 2-0) at Dottie Kelso Memorial Gymnasium at Lewisburg.
That question was answered emphatically as the Tigerettes held a lead almost the entire second half before losing on a CPA 3-pointer with under a minute left in the game for a 34-31 loss.
"Well we did a lot of really good things," coach Steely said. "We executed the game plan defensively really, really well especially after the first few minutes we kind of got a feel for what was going on but obviously we needed another stop or another basket, one."
CPA, arguably the best AA team in Tennessee since 2010 including AA state championships in 2012 and 2013, compiled a 55-6 record the past two seasons and won 18 straight games last season before losing to eventual state champion East Nashville in the state quarterfinals.
CPA beat the Tigerettes 154-74 in last season's two games.
The Lions have won six in a row over the Tigerettes since the two teams joined districts, but Marshall County held CPA to its lowest point total since a loss to Germantown Houston 17 games into the 2013-14 season with 34 points.
"I knew that CPA was a strong team, that they were fundamental and really good and I actually expected them to blow us out," senior point guard Zachuriya O'Neal said. "But as the game went on I realized that they were beatable and we could really beat that team."
O'Neal led the Tigerettes with a game-high 17 points to go along with a team high eight rebounds and four assists. Freshman Kelsey Keiler added nine points and Demarie Ingram added seven rebounds.
Hannah Davis and Alli Hobbs held highly ranked and heavily recruited post Savannah Legate to just 10 points, eight in the first quarter.
"The main game plan was to basically just stop the big girl and make sure we gave a lot of help," O'Neal added. "At the start of the game we knew what we had to do but we just didn't execute that well but as the game went on we started to actually realize that she was their go-to player and we had to stop her if we were able to even have a chance to win the game."
The game started predictably as LeGate scored the first eight points for either team before O'Neal finally got the home team on the board with a crossover and short jumper in the lane with 1:08 remaining in the quarter.
Leah Hollingsworth scored her only basket of the game during the next possession on an NBA length 3-pointer to trim the lead to 8-5 with 38 seconds left, O'Neal penetrated and scored a layup with 12 seconds remaining in the quarter to cut the CPA lead to 10-7 after one quarter.
O'Neal put the team on her back to start the second quarter by scoring six straight points to keep the Tigerettes within one at 18-17 with 3:08 remaining before setting up Keiler for the free throw line jumper to give Marshall County its first lead of the game at 19-18.
Coming in the contest averaging 58 points per game, CPA was held scoreless by the ever growing Marshall County defense in the third quarter as O'Neal dropped in four points and Keiler added a triple for a 26-20 Tigerette lead heading into the final frame.
Carrington Washburn scored the first Lion points of the second half with 5:00 remaining in the game on a corner jumper, but O'Neal nailed two free throws to put the home team back up six with 2:40 left in the game.
Libby Long drained a 3-pointer with 2:18 left to cut the lead to a single possession at 30-27 and Washingburn created a steal and layup on the next Tigerette possession to make it a one point game 30-29.
O'Neal hit a free throw to push the lead to 31-29, but on the next possession a questionable foul call on a Marshall County rebound gave the ball to the Lady Lions under the basket and Long knocked down a 3-pointer for the first CPA lead of the second half at 32-31.
On its next possession, O'Neal penetrated and dished to a wide open Keiler in the corner, but the basketball caught nothing but air and two Washburn free throws sealed the deal and the monumental upset slipped away from the Tigerettes.
"Coming in I thought we were gonna be really close with them," Steely said. "You always worry because they're supposed to be the favorite, but I just thought it was a good match for us and that we had a good chance to get a win. It just didn't happen."
"It's an opportunity to learn how to finish," Steely added. "CPA has been in that game multiple times over the last several years. State tournament, region, sub-state, district championships. That's really our first one to be in in the last few years. A really intense, close, big game. It's a process in learning how to finish that game so maybe we'll learn from this."
Marshall County 7 12 7 5 31
CPA 10 10 0 14 34
Marshall County (31): Zachuriya O'Neal 17, Kelsey Keiler 9, Leah Hollingsworth 3, Hannah Davis 2
3-point goals (2): Hollingsworth, Keiler
CPA (34): Savannah LeGate 10, Libby Long 9, Carrington Washburn 6, Addie Russell 4, Emma Maddux 3, Anne Florence Brown 2
3-point goals (4): Long 3, Maddux
Halftime score: CPA 20, Marshall County 19