Rhea County’s girls shellacked White County by 45 points in the District 6-3A consolation game last Friday.
White County doesn’t have a Madison Hayes. East Hamilton does.
Rhea County, living and dying with 3-point shots or layups, had a 45-36 lead against the Lady Hurricanes early in the fourth quarter.
“We felt pretty good then,” said Rhea’s Mallory Hampton, who finished with a team-high 18 points.
Hayes and the Lady Hurricanes found another gear.
DeZah Lacy hit a short bank shot, Maya Patton drained a shot from the right wing, Hayes knocked down a 12-foot jumper and McKenna Hayes took advantage of her sister’s steal for a layup and Eliziah Laboo made a short jumper capping a pivotal 10-0 run and East Hamilton went on to defeat the Lady Eagles, 56-49, in the Region 3-3A tournament semifinals Friday night and advanced to the semifinals on Monday at Bradley Central.
Hayes, although her shooting percentage was sub-par – at one point she was 2-for-20 from the field, was brilliant in every other facet of the game with 29 points, 18 rebounds, five steals, six blocks and four assists.
“She’s a very good player and very athletic,” Hampton said. “She was insane sometimes. Her height (6-foot-1) makes a huge difference, especially against small guards like me.”
The Lady Canes (21-12), the District 5-3A runner-up to Bradley, will take on District 6-3A champion Stone Memorial (22-5) on Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Bradley Central High School. Stone Memorial defeated McMinn County, 66-45.
Bradley (28-3) whipped White County, 63-48, and Cookeville ousted Cleveland, 58-54. The Bearettes and Lady Cavaliers square off at 6 p.m. at Jim Smiddy Arena, where they have won 31 straight games.
Stone Memorial’s boys defeated McMinn County, 71-43. The Panthers advance to the semifinals and will play Saturday’s East Hamilton-Cookeville winner Tuesday.
Hayes scored the Lady Canes’ first 10 points before DeZah Lacy joined in with a 12-foot jumper with 2:06 left in the first quarter.
And when East Hamilton was tied with Rhea at 48-48 with less than two minutes left in the game, Hayes scored the team’s last eight points to secure the win. She scored 10 points in the fourth quarter.
That closing surge started when Hayes got a steal, made a field goal and converted a three-point plays with 1:31 remaining.
“When we got the steal and-one, I felt like we had the momentum back,” she said. “We got a couple steals, couple blocks and couple rebounds and that’s what we needed. We thought they shouldn’t have been that close to us and we needed to take advantage of being faster and more athletic. Finally, we used that against them and beat them.”
Hayes’ athleticism is an asset that helped her become a finalist for the TSSAA Miss Basketball honor to be awarded at the state tournament in March.
It’s also why she is a key member of the Finest Basketball Club’s 3x3 team that’s invited to Las Vegas in June and to the U18 3x3 national championships at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 12-14. Sixteen teams will compete there and the winner advances to represent the U.S. in an international event in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, June 3-7.
Hayes will be joined on the team by Hamilton Heights’ Treasure Hunt, Raven Johnson of Westlake, Georgia and Oliva Cochran of Columbus, Georgia.
‘It’s the first year we’re doing this,” Hayes said before Friday’s game. “It should be fun.”
Rhea County (16-15) took a 22-21 lead in the second period but failed to score over the final 4 minutes and 11 seconds. East Hamilton scored just four points – Hayes and Maya Patton hit buckets – and Hayes had 16 of the team’s 25 points at halftime.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy,” East Hamilton coach Hunter Gremore said. “They shoot the mess out of the 3-ball. Madison had a great start and strong finish. What would we do without her? We’d lose. But we had other girls that were open but we weren’t making shots in the first half. In the second, those girls (Anaya Evans, Emily Petitt and Laboo) still weren’t being guarded and they hit some shots.
“When were down by nine, I called a timeout. I told them, ‘We don’t want to go home, do we? Force some turnovers with our pressure and get up on them. We started scoring some, got some defensive stops and survived and advanced.”
The Lady Canes’ improved defense down the stretch limited the Lady Eagles to four points over the final 6 minutes and 7 seconds.
Rhea County coach Darvin Gill was philosophical after the tough loss.
“We made some uncharacteristic turnovers coupled with their pressure defense late in the game,” he said. “They executed down the stretch and that’s a testament to Hunter and his team. As for Hayes, she’s Miss Basketball in Triple A, as I see it. She’s a tremendous player and I have a great player in Mallory Hampton. Madison is equal to Mallory except Madison is 6-1. You can do a lot of good stuff defensively against Madison and she still scores.”
Lacy scored 11 points for East Hamilton.
Haley Cameron finished with 12 points for the Lady Eagles.
Bradley Central girls 63, White County 48: The perennial championship contending Bearettes (28-3) found themselves in a strange land at halftime. They trailed the Warriorettes, 31-30.
Bradley cranked up its defense and Anna Walker, Hannah Lombard and Cambree Mayo handled much of the scoring and the Bearettes rolled to their 31st straight home-court win. Along the way, Bradley had to contain the Warriorettes’ long-distance shooting, a category in which they outscored the Bearettes, 30-12.
Gracie Dodgen went 5-for-10 behind the arc and Kendreah Reeves was 3-for-6 in doing most of the damage. Dodgen scored a game-high 17 points and Reeves added 13.
Bradley stuck to outscoring White County, 32-8, in the paint; 32-7 off 29 Warriorettes’ turnovers and 17-6 off the bench.
Walker led the Bearettes with 16 points, Lombard had 13 and Mayo finished with 11. The threesome combined for 14-for-27 shooting and Lombard made two of the team’s four 3s.
Bradley was 20-of-45 (44 percent) from the filed and 19-for-29 at the free-throw line.
While Jamaryn Blair scored just six points, she five assists and four steals with just three turnovers.
After beating White County for the sixth consecutive time – Bradley trails the all-time series 8-9 – while appearing in their 35th straight region tournament and 60th in the last 61, the Bearettes now turn their attention to the Cookeville girls.
In their last meeting, the Bearettes posted a 69-35 victory over the Lady Cavaliers in the 2017 regional quarterfinals in Cleveland. Later that postseason in the Sectional round, Stewarts Creek beat Bradley, 55-49, the last team to win at Jim Smiddy Arena.
Rhea County 15 7 17 10 – 49
East Hamilton 12 13 11 20 – 56
Rhea County (49) – Haley Cameron 12, Smith 8, Taylor 4, Jenkins, Mallory Hampton 18, Welch 7, Gentry.
East Hamilton (56) – Patton 4, Evans 2, DeZah Lacy 11, Copeland, Madison Hayes 29, Mc. Hayes 2, Johnson, Petitt 2, Laboo 6.
3-Point Goals – Rhea County 9 (Cameron 2, Smith 2, Hampton 2, Welch 2, Taylor 1), East Hamilton 2 (Ma. Hayes 1, Lacy 1).
White County 13 18 3 14 – 48
Bradley Central 13 17 18 15 – 63
White County (48) – Grace Dodgen 17, Stiles 1, Kendreah Reeves 13, Murray 8, Curtis 3, Reeves 5, Johnson 1, Matthews.
Bradley Central (63) – Hughes 4, Roberts 7, Blair 6, Anna Walker 16, Hannah Lombard 13, Williams, Reuter, Cambree Mayo 11, Barnes 4, Carman 2, Hullender.
3-Point Goals – White County 10 (Dodgen 5, Ke. Reeves 3, Murray 1, Ka. Reeves 1), Bradley Central 4 (Lombard 2, Roberts 1, Mayo 1).
(Contact Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @larryfleming44)