Lady Bulldogs beat Cascade, earn region spot
It's often said that one of the hardest feats in basketball is beating the same team three times in one season.
Add playing that team on its home court and throw in an elimination game and that's what four-seeded Cornersville (19-7) faced in the opening round of the District 8-A Tournament on Monday night at five-seeded Cascade (4-22).
Despite only four wins on the season, the Champions played the Lady Bulldogs within single digits (7 points, 9 points) during both regular season matchups and came uncomfortably close to pulling the first upset of the tournament before Cornersville pulled away late for a 46-38 win.
"That was a very determined and motivated team we played out there tonight," Cornersville coach Peyton Newton said. "We can call them an underdog, but they've played us close all three times and have played the other teams in our district close all year."
"I was very proud of how our girls fought until the end and gutted it out because that game had a ton of ups and downs for both teams."
The Lady Champions pulled to within one point at the halftime buzzer, went up by a single digit at the third quarter buzzer, and took a one-point lead with four minutes left in the contest before Cornersville got a couple easy layups off steals and finally put the game away at the foul line.
The Lady Bulldogs were led by senior Morgan Terry with 20 points and 11 rebounds, Gabby King added eight points and six rebounds, and Emma Mitchell finished with six points and three steals.
Cascade was led by Haleigh Crouch with 19 points.
The game was tight early with Terry dropping six first quarter points to a accompany three King points and a Mitchell free throw to give the Lady Bulldogs a 10-8 lead after one.
A pair of triples from Peyton Salsman and Taylor Powers and six Terry points gave the Lady Dawgs a brief 20-16 advantage, but Cascade’s Delaney Vaught knocked down her only basket from long range of the game at the 4:28 mark to close the gap to 20-19.
Cornersville extended its lead to 24-19 on a turnaround jumper by Sarah Beth Prosser and two free throws by Terry on the ensuing possession, but Crouch went to work for the Lady Champions with a layup, two free throws, and finally a steal and pullup jumper at the halftime buzzer to cut the deficit to 26-25 heading into the half.
"We were up one I think at halftime and I knew they were hitting a lot of tough shots," Newton explained. "We did not want to go into the final seconds in a close game on their home floor."
The two teams struggled to find offense in the third period with Cornersville scoring just four points in the period to set up a Vaught jumper at the buzzer to give the home team its first lead at 31-30.
"We were down one going into the fourth quarter and we just asked the girls to commit to defense and take care of the ball," Newton said. "We got some steals and hit some huge free throws and layups late and finally got the lead we wanted late to pull out another tough win."
With the Lady Bulldogs struggling to score, Terry spotted up for an open three and nailed the long distance shot to give the Lady Bulldogs a 34-31 lead that seemed to wake the offense up.
"I think making a big shot in crunch time can get any team going, but we also had some big stops on defense and made free throws that helped us pull out the lead," Terry said. "I saw that Cascade wasn't guarding the three-point line, so I knew the shot was going to be open. After the made basketball it was a confidence booster for me and the team. We always feed off each other's accomplishments and I think that's one of our best qualities."
The Lady Champions made one last run at the lead, going up by one point on two Grace Jackson free throws by following a Mitchell free throw to tie the game back up, Mitchell stepped in front of a Cascade pass to run in for a the layup and Gabby King followed with a coast-to-coast rebound and layup to put Cornersville up for good.
Cornersville qualified for its third straight region tournament appearance, but Moore County stands in the way of a district championship berth.
The Raiders beat the Lady Bulldogs badly during both regular season matchups and Cornersville will have to play its best ballgame of the year to advance to the title tilt.
"I think if we play good defense and knock down some shots we can take care of business," Terry said. "It's good to know that we are locked in for a guaranteed region game, but that doesn't make us satisfied. Beating Moore County is just the next step."
The two teams meet on Thursday night at Wartrace with tipoff scheduled for 6 p.m.
Cascade 8 17 6 7-38
Cornersville 10 16 4 16-46
Cascade (38): Haleigh Crouch 19, Delaney Vaught 7, Grace Jackson 4, Keely Sutton 3, Carmen Real 3, Ally Murdock 2.
3-Point goals (2): Sutton, Vaught.
Cornersville (46): Morgan Terry 20, Gabby King 8, Emma Mitchell 6, Taylor Powers 5, Sarah Beth Prosser 4, Payton Salsman 3.
3-Point goals (3): Terry, Salsman, Powers.
Halftime Score: Cornersville 26, Cascade 25.