GPS Set To Face Baylor In Best Of Preps Championship

Brainerd And Heritage Will Play For Third At Chattanooga State Saturday

Friday, December 27, 2013 - by John Hunt

The pairings are set for the placement round in the Best of Preps basketball tournament at Chattanooga State.

Saturday night's girls championship will feature GPS and Baylor at 7 while Brainerd and Heritage will play for third place at 4 p.m.

Lookout Valley and Tyner kick things off with a contest for seventh place at 10 a.m. while Signal Mountain and East Hamilton will battle for fifth place at 1.

GPS advanced with a come-from-behind 51-47 victory over Brainerd in the best girls game of the day on Friday while Baylor earned its spot following a 47-33 win over Heritage.

East Hamilton earned a spot in the fifth-place game with a 46-15 win over Lookout Valley while Signal Mountain rolled past Tyner by a 52-32 final in the other consolation game.

GPS 51, BRAINERD 47: The Bruisers entered the game with 11 wins in their first 12 games, but they had to fight for their lives to make it 12 out of 13.

Sophomore Jamee Ward, the younger sister of Brainerd coach Tyrus Ward, was the sparkplug for the Lady Panthers as she scored 20 points in the first half alone as Brainerd raced to a 31-21 lead at intermission.

The difference was 11 points at 41-30 when the fourth quarter began, but that's when the Bruisers decided to get serious and start playing with purpose.

Three buckets in a 13-second span two minutes into the final quarter allowed GPS to turn a 42-37 deficit into a 43-42 lead and the Lady Panthers really never recovered.

Ward had a steal and a layup at the 5:28 mark as Brainerd regained the lead at 44-43, but two straight buckets from Reagan Williams allowed GPS to regain the momentum and they never trailed again.

Jumeka Brown canned a 3 from the wing with 3:33 to play as Brainerd knotted the score at 47-all, but the Lady Panthers didn't score again as GPS sealed the win by sinking four of six free throws in the final 52 seconds.

"We were behind for so long that I thought we had given up, but we dug down deep and pulled it out," said a relieved GPS coach Jennifer "Curly" Williams once the game finally ended.

"We needed a game like that where we had to find a way to win late in the game.  We were acting more like cheerleaders, but I don't carry pom-poms in the trunk of my car," she continued, half-joking about the lackluster effort her girls had given up to that frantic fourth quarter.

"We finally started believing that we could win and we started communicating for the first time in a long time, but we're a decent team when we play together.  That was a great game for us to win," she added.

Brainerd's Ward witnessed a lot of silly mistakes by his young team, but he also saw a lot of positives.

"We need to learn how to finish, but I feel like we made some positive strides in this game and I'm hoping we'll learn from our mistakes," he began.

"Careless mistakes cost us this game, but I was proud of our effort.  We didn't do a very good job of taking care of the ball late as our inexperience showed.  We needed to weather the storm at that point, but cracked a bit at the end," he added.

Ward had 20 in the first half and finished with 25 while Brown was next with a dozen to lead the Lady Panthers, now 7-4 overall.

Sydney Shutters scored 17 points and was one of three GPS players in double figures.  Kara Ware was next with 12 while Akia Harris finished with 11.

Brainerd won the rebound battle by a 25-22 margin.  Ebony Calloway was tops for the Lady Panthers with 10 while Jakira Walker snagged eight.

Ware topped the Bruisers with seven rebounds while Williams claimed five and Katie Morgan four.

BAYLOR 47, HERITAGE 33: The Lady Red Raiders never trailed in this game, but the win wasn't nearly as easy as the final score might indicate as the Lady Generals caused problems with their zone defense.

A 15-11 lead for Baylor at the end of the first quarter swelled to 23-18 by halftime and 33-25 after three quarters.

The Lady Generals had gotten to within one at 23-22 following a layup by Shelby Mullinax with 6:06 showing in the third quarter, but the Lady Red Raiders then went on a 10-3 run for the eight-point lead with eight minutes remaining.

Heritage started fouling late in the game in hopes that Baylor would miss, but the Lady Raiders only increased their lead by sinking seven of eight in the fourth quarter and six of seven in the final minute.

"Their zone defense bothered us a bit and we didn't execute offensively like we should have, but we still found a way to win," said Baylor coach John Gibson after his girls had improved to 9-6.

"There are times when we don't completely understand how a game unfolds, but we always play hard.  We didn't take great shots today and we need to be more consistent.  Our tough schedule early has helped us as we're really a better team than our record would indicate.

"We won today and I'm really proud of that fact, but we didn't play very well," the former UTC standout concluded.

Heritage coach Eddie Bryant had one answer for the biggest problem his team faced.

"We just had too many turnovers," he began after his team had lost for only the third time in 13 games.

"We got it down to six in the fourth quarter, but Baylor countered with a three-point play and we never recovered after it went back to nine.  I feel like the game was closer than the score would indicate, but Baylor has a great team and we knew we'd have to play at a high level to compete with them.

"We were hoping to contain the Clemens girl, but she got most of her points on drives and free throws," Bryant added.

Kaleigh Clemons did indeed lead the Baylor attack with 19 points and five assists as she was the only Lady Red Raider in double figures.  Skyla Looper and Abby Huber were next with nine and eight points, respectively.

Jada Hubbard was tops for the Lady Generals with 15 points.

Heritage won the rebound battle by a 22-21 margin with Hubbard leading her team with seven and Looper leading Baylor with five.

EAST HAMILTON 46, LOOKOUT VALLEY 15: The Lady Hurricanes led from the start and were never seriously challenged.

Rhyne Howard was tops for the Lady Hurricanes with 10 points while Kyndall Caudle, Tori Stovall and Destyne Black all tallied eight points.

BriAnna Workman was tops for Lookout Valley with four points.

SIGNAL MOUNTAIN 52, TYNER 32: The Lady Eagles raced out to a 19-8 lead after one quarter and never looked back en route to this 20-point win.

Aryn Sanders was the leading scorer for Signal Mountain with 27 points while Porcia Turner had 22 for the Lady Rams.

BAYLOR   15  8  10  14  --  47

HERITAGE  11  7  7  8  --  33

BAYLOR (47) -- Clemons 19, Huckabay 2, Simpkins, Huber 8, Looper 9, Long 4, Smith, Popp 3, Blackmon, McMahan 2.

HERITAGE (33) -- Harvey 5, Smith, Belk 4, Hubbard 15, Mullinax 5, Hixon, Thomas 4, Taylor.

3-POINT GOALS; Baylor 1 (Looper); Heritage 4 (Harvey, Hubbard 3).

BRAINERD  19  12  10  6  --  47

GPS    13  8  9  21  --  51

BRAINERD (47) -- Callaway 1, Brown 12, Ward 25, Price 3, Sparks, McClendon, Ashley, Walker 6.

GPS (51) -- Shutters 17, Spears, Morgan 4, Crownover, Harris 11, Hudson, Williams 5, Ware 12.

3-POINT GOALS: Brainerd 8 (Brown 3, Ward 4, Price); GPS 3 (Shutters 2, Harris).

LOOKOUT VALLEY   5  0  2  8 --  15

EAST HAMILTON     10  7  11  18  --  46

LOOKOUT VALLEY (15) -- Crownover 3, Marr 2, Rogers, Mitchell 3, Foster 2, Evers 2, Hoge, Cabrera, Workman 4.

EAST HAMILTON (46) -- Pettit, Woods 1, Caudle 8, Stovall 8, Howard 10, Wood 4, Black 8, Giles 7, Zeh, Maston.

3-POINT GOALS: Lookout Valley 1 (Crownover); East Hamilton 1 (Giles).

SIGNAL MOUNTAIN  19  6  15  12  --  52

TYNER    8  4  10  10  -- 32

SIGNAL MOUNTAIN (52) -- Peterson 2, Sanders 27, M. Whitmire 4, Althaus 2, B. Whitmire 6, Bledsoe 2, Heisser, Gravett 2, McGowan 1, Boals 8.

TYNER (32) -- Bedford 2, Parks, McLemore, Conyers, Wilkes 6, Maffett, Christopher 2, May, Smith, Montgomery, Rodgers, Turner 22.

3-POINT GOALS; Signal Mountain 1 (Sanders); Tyner none.

(email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@comcast.net)


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