The Whitwell Lady Tigers have been in this position for the last two years and they wanted to prove that last year's Region 3-A basketball tournament title was not a fluke.
Playing in Sale Creek's McEwen Gymnasium like it was their own home court, the Lady Tigers had a near-perfect performance as they earned the right to host a sectional game on Saturday night where they will face the Clarkrange Lady Buffaloes, a 58-52 loser to Jackson County..
Wednesday night's championship game with the Silverdale Lady Seahawks was a pretty good game for a half, but the Lady Tigers took charge in the final two quarters to post a 65-41 victory in a contest where the Lady Tigers did everything extremely well.
The Lady Seahawks just didn't have any answers for a team that seemingly hit every three-point shot they attempted (Whitwell made 11 for the game) and they just couldn't match the Lady Tigers hustle as Whitwell grabbed virtually every loose ball and they enjoyed a commanding 37-23 advantage on the boards.
Kelsey Kilgore and Alyssa Coppinger started the game with 3s for Whitwell while Kilgore added two more long ones as the Lady Tigers were up 14-12 when the first quarter ended.
Megan Lewis bagged a 3 for Silverdale to start the second period, but that gave the Lady Seahawks their only lead of the game at 15-14 with 7:34 left in the second quarter.
Haley Redmond knotted the score at 17-17 for the Lady Seahawks on a short bank shot at the 5:57 mark, but Whitwell scored 10 of the last 14 points to take a 27-21 lead into the dressing room at intermission.
Emily Skelton scored on a nice inside turnaround move and Mariah Massengill followed with a 3 from the wing as Silverdale trailed 27-26 with 6:01 to play in the third quarter.
Massengill added eight more points in the quarter, but the Lady Tigers were clicking like a well-oiled machine and an 8-0 run to end the quarter signaled the end for the Lady Seahawks as the difference was 52-36 with eight minutes to play.
Massengill sank two free throws and later added her fifth shot from behind the arc, but nobody else scored for Silverdale as Whitwell finished the game on a 9-0 run while the Lady Seahawks went the final 5:27 without scoring.
"I'm happy that we got the win as we did a good job executing our game plan," said Whitwell coach Eric Zensen after the post-game awards had been distributed.
"Silverdale has a good team and I figured it would be nip and tuck, but we shot the ball extremely well tonight and our defense was great. We know that the Massengill girl is extremely quick and a really good penetrator, but we did a great job of keeping her in front of us.
"I'm so proud of these young ladies as they did a great job from start to finish. I know it's hard to believe that we only shot about 50 percent from the free throw line during the regular season, but we've been pretty good here this week," he said after watching his team hit 16 of 17 on Wednesday night after hitting 17 of 19 on Monday against Van Buren.
Silverdale coach David Massengill had nothing but good things to say about Whitwell after his team's 11-game winning streak was snapped.
"They were really good tonight as they ran a great motion offense. We certainly didn't take them for granted, but I felt like we got a little tired after such a physical game with Sale Creek on Monday.
"We did all we could do, but the good news is we're still playing and we still have something to fight for. We've never been in this position before and I'm sure that we can build from it, but we have to take a drive on Saturday night," he continued, knowing that he'll be playing in Gainesboro against the Jackson County Lady Blue Devils, who improved to 29-3 with a 58-52 win over Clarkrange.
"Sloane (Woodard) never got in a rhythm and it's tough to do well when your second-leading scorer only scores three points. But we have a lot of respect for Whitwell and their overall speed tonight hurt us. Every one of their girls could handle the ball," he concluded.
Kilgore was tops for the Lady Tigers with 25 points while Coppinger was next with 20. Paige Carter was also in double figures for the winners with 11.
Haley Atterton only scored two points, but she was the leader on the boards for the Lady Tigers with nine rebounds. Carter and Kilgore snagged eight each.
All four earned All-Tournament honors with Coppinger being named the MVP.
Massengill was the only Silverdale player in double figures as she finished with 21. Lewis was next with eight.
Skelton was the leading rebounder for the Lady Seahawks with five.
Whitwell improves to 26-8 while Silverdale is now 20-9.
Whitwell 14 13 25 13 -- 65
Silverdale 12 9 15 5 -- 41
WHITWELL (65) -- Gholston 5, Smith, Bennington 2, Atterton 2, Coppinger 20, Carter 11, Kilgore 25, Headrick.
SILVERDALE (41) -- Alosi, Massengill 21, Lewis 8, Woodard 3, Smith, Sanders, Redmond 4, Sims 3, Skelton 2, Harkleroad.
3-POINT GOALS: Whitwell 11 (Gholston, Coppinger 4, Carter, Kilgore 5); Silverdale 8 (Massengill 5, Lewis 2, Woodard).
ALL-TOURNAMENT SELECTIONS: Lakelyn Bouldin (Van Buren Co.); Erin Hill (Sale Creek); Mariah Massengill, Sloan Woodard (Silverdale); Kelsey Kilgore, Paige Carter, Haley Atterton, Alyssa Coppinger--MVP (Whitwell).
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)