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Lady Bears take command of 9-AAA race
Jan 22, 2007 12:00 am
SMYRNA — With Smyrna trailing Mt. Juliet by three and the final seconds ticking off Friday night, Emily Pollock's three-point shot was blocked by Lady Bear freshman Chelsea Brown as the buzzer sounded.
With Smyrna coach Steve Willey and the Lady Bulldogs Nation signalling for a foul and three free throws, the officials stood and didn't appear to make a signal for several seconds. Finally, the teams shook hands and the Lady Bears walked off the court with a 62-59 victory, putting them in command of District 9-AAA with five league games remaining.
"Chelsea Brown made a great play at the end and that's what her job is," Mt. Juliet coach Chris Fryer said after his Lady Bears climbed to 20-1 for the season and 7-0 in the district. "She's got long arms and she anticipates well. I thought (Pollock) hesitated. I didn't think she was going into her shot. It looked like a pretty obvious block to me."
Mt. Juliet has a two-game lead over top-10 rivals Smyrna (16-4, 5-2) and Wilson Central and at least a three-game advantage over the other four teams. The No. 7 Lady Bulldogs and No. 6 Lady Wildcats need help to catch the No. 2 Lady Bears for the top seed and accompanying first-round bye in the district tournament.
"With our district, help is on the way," said Fryer, whose Lady Bears could well climb to No. 1 when the next Associated Press poll comes out Monday after top-ranked Shelbyville lost to Lawrence County 54-50 Friday night. "We got Hendersonville (at MJ) Tuesday, we got LaVergne at their place on Friday. We still got Beech at home who's really playing really well right now. We got Central. Gallatin just gave us all the basketball we wanted playing over at their place.
"In our district, you got to take it one game at a time. When it's over with, if we can be consistent and win the games we're supposed to win, we'll be in good shape. Right now, it's just too early to say ... And don't think there can't be an upset of Smyrna and Wilson Central, an upset of Mt. Juliet. There's some teams out there that can beat all three of us for sure."
A Smyrna win would have thrown the district door wide open. And the Lady Bulldogs swung out to a 7-0 lead before the Lady Bears battled back to take the lead early in the second quarter.
"I thought we were pretty consistent all four quarters," Fryer said. "I knew coming over here that they would be excited, they would want to win on their home floor.
"We knew we were going to have to absorb that first quarter, that there was going to be a run where Smyrna was going to be hyper, being excited to play a game and playing a team that was first in the district and fight for a first-place seed in our district."
Jordan Nixon helped spark Mt. Juliet's comeback with six first-period points, capped by a fastbreak layup which brought the Lady Bears within 13-12 by the quarter break.
K.C. VanAtta's driving layup in the first minute of the second half put Mt. Juliet in front for the first time 14-13. The teams exchanged the lead with Smyrna going up 24-19 on a three-pointer by freshman Katie Williams, who flipped in four triples off the bench on her way to Lady Bulldog-leading 16 points.
"We left (Williams) open quite a bit," Fryer said. "So we didn't get her defended very good. We didn't really have a clue she was that good a shooter. I don't know if she missed a shot. She did a great job. I've not seen that on film or seen her shoot like that. We probably should have guarded her better."
Seniors VanAtta and Miaca Bowman brought the Lady Bears back with five second-period points apiece. Bowman's pullup jumper in the final seconds put Mt. Juliet ahead 32-30 going into halftime.
Mt. Juliet controlled the third quarter as the Lady Bears outscored Smyrna 17-8 capped by Nixon's driving layup for a 49-38 lead at the break.
But Smyrna mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter as Mt. Juliet center Heather Miller fouled out early in the period, forcing Fryer go go smaller with Brown, Macie Gleaves and Katie Bryan down the stretch. Alex Adams, who finished with 15 points, got a favorable bounce on a three-pointer to bring the Lady Bulldogs within 61-59 before Bowman dropped in her 16th point to extend the margin to three.
"We're not a very big basketball team," Fryer said. "It really hurt us when we lost our biggest kid (Miller), and not just from her scoring, but from her defense. There's no telling how many steals and tips and blocks she had in back of the press in the halfcourt defense. It's crucial that we keep her out on the floor."
Nixon led the Lady Bears with 17 points while Rebecca Sharpe added 11, Miller nine, VanAtta eight and Bryan a free throw.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at email@example.com.