Lady Patriots beat Tigerettes in consolation game

Friday, February 24, 2017
Zachuriya O'Neal was recognized for making the All-District tournament and regular season teams after the District 12AA championship game on Monday night.
Tribune photos by Mike Inglsbee

The District 12AA consolation game on Monday night at times resembled more a game of chess than basketball as Page and Marshall County fought to the end in a 28-21 Lady Patriotís win.

With Marshall County down to just four players that played meaningful minutes during the regular season and no bench to speak of due to injuries, the Tigerettes devised a game plan that slowed the pace of the game and utilized more brain than brawn for the better part of the contest and came close to the upset.

Pulling to within one-point at 21-20 with just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter after going down by as many as seven points in the third period, the Tigerettes failed to convert at the free throw line with a chance to take a lead and missed on two key rebounds on the defensive end that all but ended the comeback attempt.

"We had a turnover here, a missed rebound or two right there in those last few minutes," MCHS coach David Steely said. "But we came in with a game plan to slow the game down, to look for the opportunities in transition, but once it came to half court, slow the game down."

"Our girls did a real good job of executing and staying with the plan of stay close, stay close, stay close and look for that one spurt," Steely continued. "Look for that one spurt at the end that gives us the opportunity and we had it so we did a good job with that. We still just have to learn how to finish."

After losing to Page by 12 points in mid-January with a full healthy lineup and suffering a 22-point blowout loss to the Patriots less than two weeks prior, the Tigerettes held its longtime district rival to the second lowest scoring output of the season despite playing without the services of two starters and its first player off the bench.

"We're not there yet but we came down here a few nights ago and they were playing the same defense," Steely said. "So we made some good adjustments, played a lot better this time and just didn't quite get the job done in the last few minutes."

Although the Tigerettes continue to play stellar on the defensive side of the court, the loss of key play makers have hindered the Marshall County offensive attack to the point of stagnation.

The Patriots ran a box and one defensive set with the attention going to sharpshooting guard Leah Hollingsworth, forcing the other Tigerettes to shoulder the offensive burden.

The scheme worked as planned for Page as the Tigerettes were held to a season-low 21 points as Hollingsworth was held to just two points and just two other Marshall County players scored.

Zachuriya O'Neal goes strong to the hoop for two of her game-high 15 points in the Tigerettes seven-point loss to Page on Monday night.

Zachuriya O'Neal led the Tigerettes with 15 points and seven rebounds while Hannah Davis added four points and six rebounds.

Alexia Udell chipped in three rebounds and an assist.

"Honestly it feels kind of hectic not being able to matchup like we're supposed to," O'Neal stated, "I guess we'll really just have to adjust to what we have."

The Patriots were led by Faith Wilken with eight points, while Peyton Clark and Olivia Wilson adding six points apiece.

The ballgame started out as a normal fast-paced game as the Patriots took an early 7-4 behind five McKenzie Lane points before O'Neal broke through the defense to score a layup and followed that with an old-fashioned three-point play for a 9-7 Tigerette lead with 4:39 remaining in the opening frame.

The Patriots reclaimed the lead on the following possession via a Clark triple for the 10-9 advantage, but Hollingsworth drove to the hoop for two points to tilt the lead back to the blue and white side at 11-9.

Faith Wilken gave the lead back to the home team with a steal and a layup at the 6:03 mark and Wilken struck again at the 1:50 with a swipe and layup for the 15-11 Patriot edge.

Page claimed its largest lead of the contest on a back-breaking triple with 26 seconds left in the half as the Tigerettes failed to score in the second period and went into the break, down 18-11.

Davis started a Tigerette rally on the first possession of the third period on an offensive rebound and layup and with 1:20 left in the frame O'Neal drove to the bucket for a layup to trim the lead to 20-16.

O'Neal continued the run on the next possession, weaving her way through the defense for another basket to cut the deficit to two at 20-18, heading into the final quarter.

The senior guard continued her dominance to start off the final quarter as O'Neal grabbed a rebound and took off for a coast-to-coast layup to complete a 9-2 Tigerette run and tie the game at 20 with 7:41 remaining in the game.

The Patriots finally ended the run on the next possession with two Wilson free throws for the 22-20 lead, but O'Neal once again rose to the challenge, taking the rock to the hoop and drawing a foul.

The Tigerettes missed a key opportunity with two missed free throws, but Davis snagged the rebound and fed O'Neal who drew another foul.

O'Neal drained one of two from the charity stripe to close the lead to 22-21, but the Patriots were able to grab two key offensive rebounds on consecutive possessions and hit its free throws down the stretch to hold off the upset minded Tigerettes.

"We were in such a rush (once Page reclaimed the lead)," O'Neal said. "We felt like we had to get it all back at once but really we could have just held the ball for the rest of the game and we would have been perfectly fine."

The Tigerettes will now have to make the long drive to Charlotte to take on District 11AA champion Creek Wood on Friday night in the Region 6AA opener.

While some number four seeds might find opening the region tournament against the number one seed a bit intimidating, the Tigerettes have seen the Red Hawks before at the beginning of the season-- and won by 10 points.

Marshall County held Creek Wood to its third lowest scoring output of the season in a late November 49-39 win at the Forrest Thanksgiving Classic.

The two teams have each came a long way since that November meeting with the Red Hawks riding a seven-game winning streak and have won 14-of-15 heading into the matchup, while the Tigerettes will enter the game without the services of three of its top players due to injury.

"It'll definitely give us some confidence knowing that we have beat them but that was a long time ago," Steely stated. "Both of the teams have changed a lot since then. But it's always nice to know you beat them early and we need a little confidence coming off of these injuries and coming off these couple of loses right here to help us stay motivated."

Marshall County 11 0 7 3-21

Page 10 8 2 9-29

Marshall County (21): Zachuriya O'Neal 15, Hannah Davis 4, Leah Hollingsworth 2

3-point goals (0)

Page (29): Faith Wilken 8, Peyton Clark 6, Olivia Wilson 6, MacKenzie Lane 5, Lauren Wilker 2, Allison Pack 2

3-point goals (3): Clark 2, Lane

Halftime score: Page 18, Marshall County 11