As Laura Cottrell and her Chattanooga Christian squad trudged into its locker room Monday night, it seemed as if a terrific 17-win regular season had left the Lady Chargers satisfied.
But after what Cottrell described as “as bad a defensive half as we've had in awhile,” CCS only trailed by three. “So there was still hope. And them my senior decided she wanted to keep on playing after this one.
The lone CCS senior, Mary Saborin, had virtually no stats in the first half. But as the Lady Chargers turned up the pressure on visiting Sequatchie County, she covered the back half of her team's full-court pressure defense like her team's Michael Bourn, patrolling sideline to sideline and stealing passes with remarkable ease. Flirting with a quadruple double, Saborin led Chattanooga Christian to a 58-47 victory in the first round of the District 7-AA tournament.
Saborin finished the night with 10 steals, eight points (all in the second half), seven assists and seven rebounds. But she hesitated at rating the performance her best of the season.
“I don't think about statistics. I just think about how I helped the team,” she said.
The Lady Indians, a team that relied heavily on its defense all season, stymied CCS for a half thanks to the play of 6-3 Keely Frederick in the middle. But in the third quarter, Frederick's role was quickly diminished as an inspired bunch of Lady Chargers took the floor.
It took all of 10 seconds for Joanna Smith to set the tone with a steal and a layup that made it 25-24. Sequatchie's answer was to try to throw it over the press, but that played right into the hands of the athletic Saborin. Despite a nasty spill taken while stealing one pass, she grabbed a half-dozen errant passes in the third quarter alone to set the fast break in motion.
With 2:52 left in the period, Frederick earned her fourth foul and had to sit, and the Lady Indians were at the Lady Chargers' mercy. The foul coincided with the start of a 15-2 run that put moment on the home team's side for good. Saborin had four steals in the sequence, leading her hiting one layup herself and setting up 10 more.
“I don't think Sequatchie expected the energy we came out with,” Cottrell said. “That first play by Joanna was big to get her involved, and that effort by Saborin is my senior doing what she does.”
Once CCS built its lead to double-digits, they game was put away on the foul line as the home team had one of its best free throw shooting nights of the year – 19 of 25 – while Sequatchie was a mere 4 of 8. The victory set the stage for another meeting with district champion Bledsoe County on Thursday. CCS was a one-point loser to the Lady Warriors in their last meeting.
“We're ready to play them again,” Saborin said. “We know we can do it and we know we can play with them.”
Hannah Henry led the comeback kids with 14 points. Allison Hughes followed with 13, Smith wound up with 12 and Saborin added eight. Sequatchie County was led by Kelsie Key's 13 points, but Key fouled out with 2:52 to play. Mallory Key and Keylee Smith added 12 points each.
Sequatchie County 13 12 12 10 – 47
Chatt. Christian 12 10 24 12 – 58
SEQUATCHIE CO. (47) – Adams 4, Mallory Key 12, Davenport, Keylee Smith 12, Stockwell, Kelsie Key 13, Frederick 6.
CHATT. CHRISTIAN (58) – Allison Hughes 13, Delashmitt 2, Saborin 8, Loyal, Hannah Henry 14, Joanna Smith 12, Dirkse 9.
3-point goals: SC 3 (K. Key 2); CCS 1 (Hughes). Records: Sequatchie Co. 9-15; CCS 18-11.