The East Hamilton Lady Hurricanes' mastery over District 6-AA continued Monday night in the Region 3 semifinals. As a result, they are the unlikliest of teams returning to sub-state play.
Now, they face a team they've never beaten.
The Tyner Lady Rams, feeling energized and inspired after a firstr-round road win at Sequoyah, were gunning for the upset.
Instead, they became the 18th straight 6-AA opponent to lose to Coach Derek Morris' team, 54-39, in the late game at McMinn County High.
A nearly full house was on hand for the opener, which had a similar theme, but with McMinn Central as the top dog. The Chargerettes survived a horrid second quarter to post a 51-44 victory over Meigs County. The winners, both top seeded in their district, meet Wednesday at 6:30 for home court rights in sub-state play.
The Lady Rams of coach Kyone Arnwine, heartened and inspired by their big road win in the first round of the region, stood toe-to-toe with the top-seeded Lady Hurricanes for the first 12 minutes of the game. With energetic Mia Smith scoring seven first-half points, Tyner held a 16-13 lead on East Hamilton 12 minutes into the game.
The Lady Hurricanes averted disaster because, in the words of head coach Norris, “we put the ball in the hands of the one who brought us here,” senior Jessica Caudle. The only returning player from last year's region runnerup, Caudle had a disappointing performance against Polk County in the first round – failing to even score in the fourth quarter.
Not a problem Monday. Caudle scored eight of her game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter, snuffing the final push by the Lady Rams. With Tyner hanging around, trailing by only 10 with five minutes to play, the senior scored six of her team's next eight points, including four key free throws.
Caudle fouled out two of Tyner's most dangerous players, Del-Ray Hines and Juanita Montgomery, exactly one minute apart, and hit 4 of 6 foul shots in the period. For the game, East Hamilton kept a steady parade to the foul line, hitting 15 of 26, while Tyner managed just 9 of 12 shooting free throws.
And Morris thinks his team is ready for the next step.
“Two years ago, we were scared to death of them. That wasn't so much the case last year, and we played them earlier this year, so we have a pretty good idea what we're up against,” the coach said.
Rebounding stats weren't readily available, but the Lady Hurricane had a least six possessions in which they got off at least five shots. Juliette Harp (11 points) had a bushel of the rebounds, but the team's entire approach under the boards served to overwhelm Tyner's rebounding more than a few times. On the other hand, Tyner's sparkplug Mia Smith led the Lady Rams with 13 points.
Masengil Pulls Chargerettes Through To Finals
Red-hot and seemingly unstoppable McMinn Central had one of its worse scoring droughts of the year Monday night in its semifinal contest, but arch-rival Meigs County simply failed to take advantage. In the second quarter, Central went scoreless for more than six minutes, but the Lady Tigers were only able to put four points on the board during the same time.
That did close the gap to 17-13 in favor of the Chargerettes, but Meigs would go scoreless the remainder of the first half – a span of over three minutes – and trailed by seven at the half. It would get no better, as Central, picking its spots, dropped a pair of 3-point daggers into the Lady Tigers' heart in the third quarter and built the lead to 17 (43-26).
Central's go-to girl, Elizabeth Masengil, had another memorable night with 26 points, including 10 of 13 free throws. No other Chargerette managed better than six points, but six of her teammates joined her in the scoring column.
Emileigh Swafford scored 16 for Meigs County before fouling out in the final moments. Brandi Kilpatrick added 12 for the Lady Tigers.
Region 3-AA at McMinn County
Meigs County 9 4 11 20 -- 44
McMinn Central 15 5 17 14 -- 51
MEIGS CO. (44) – Boggess 7, Emileigh Swafford 16, Lewis, Brandi Kilpatrick 12, Hampton 4, Davis 3, Dawson 2.
McMINN CENTRAL (51) – Tillman 4, Morrow 3, S.Williams 4, P.Williams, Young 4, Coleman, Elizabeth Masengill 26, Trentham 6, Gray 4.
3-point goals: Meigs Co. 1 (Davis); McMinn Cent. 2 (Morrow, S.Williams). Records: Meigs Co. 25-7; McMinn Central 28-3.
Tyner 7 13 10 9 – 39
East Hamilton 11 14 15 14 – 54
TYNER (39) – McElvain, Parks 7, Mia Smith 13, Montgomery 7, Turner 6, Hines 6, West.
EAST HAMILTON (54) – Jessica Caudle 17, Juliette Harp 11, Woods 1, K. Caudle 4, Zackery 8, Moon 6, Wood 6.
3-point goals: Tyner 1 (Parks); East Hamilton none. Records: Tyner 10-16; East Hamilton 21-8.