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Lady Wildcats dethroned by Antioch
Mar 06, 2007 12:00 am
GLADEVILLE — A year after joyously dancing off the Murphy Center floor with the gold ball, Wilson Central's girls were left on their knees in tears after Antioch denied the defending state champions a fourth straight trip to the State Tournament.
The TSSAA sectionals are the best night in Tennessee high school basketball for a team which goes on the road and defies the odds to win the trip to Murfreesboro. And three years after being blown out on the same Wilson Central floor in this round, Antioch came in and dethroned the Lady Wildcats 59-58.
Central beat the same Lady Bears by 15 points at Antioch in December. But it didn't take long to realize this Saturday night would be different as dimunitive point guard Jasmine Gunn riddled the Lady Wildcats with her team's first 15 points on her way to 30. Despite getting sick at halftime, the 4'11" Gunn played all 32 minutes, breaking a 57-57 tie with two free throws with 27.8 seconds left and leaving the home team feeling ill.
The Lady Wildcats never led after 2-0. Though they tied the score a few times, they could never get over the hump as Antioch's cat-quick guards held the ball and often scored. If the Lady Bears didn't score, they often got the rebound or got a steal shortly thereafter.
Despite all that, Central had several opportunities to take the lead but missed. And, with Miss Basketball finalist Tierney Jenkins watching her high school career end while sitting on the bench after fouling out, the Lady Wildcats came up short on a chance to tie when Jasmine Hassell made just 1 of 2 free throws with 3.7 seconds left.
"The first half, they had some shooters who really weren't their best shooters and they were knocking some shots down," Central coach Bud Brandon said after a 32-4 season. "You get signs early in the game that things aren't lined up right."
While his team's sobs could be heard through the door from his office to the dressing room, Brandon continued to explain how Antioch's rebounding [the Lady Bears officially tied the taller Lady Wildcats on the boards 28-28] and quickness [they had 10 steals out of Central's 16 turnovers while losing the ball just six times themselves] proved to be Central's downfall, his own voice revealing the emotion his players were expressing until he, too, broke down.
"I think they outrebounded us first half tremendously," Brandon said. "I think the first time all year a team shot more shots than we shot [51-36 Antioch shot advantage for the game]. I think we had 10 turnovers at halftime.
"You have to give Antioch credit... They set the tone. At halftime, there were some doubts in our minds. We regained our composure and made a good, strong run. And then Jenkins fouled out, and that's not good because she's the top player in the game down the line; she's always a force late in the game."
On the other side, Antioch's tears were of joy as the Lady Bears punched their ticket to the State Tournament with a 30-6 record.
"Jasmine and all my seniors – I have seven seniors and five of which were on the floor tonight – they didn't want it to end; they refuse to lose," Antioch coach Mary Beth Coombs said. "Jasmine just makes us go. She's so competitive. I've said this many times, she's our sparkplug. She makes all of us go. We want to play hard for her.
"We just concentrated so much on just getting boards, boards, boards. We had three keys to every game – tonight was boards, boards, boards. Our third key was 'no regrets'. We ended every timeout with 'no regrets'. We can't leave anything on the floor tonight because tomorrow's not guaranteed."
After Gunn and Central played to a 15-15 draw, Sydnei Smith's putback lifted the Lady Bears to a two-point lead at the first-quarter break.
Gunn scored only two points in the second quarter, but Kirtrell Brown dropped in six of her 11 on a pair of three-pointers during the period. Her second triple lifted the Lady Bears to a 31-28 halftime lead.
As the second half wore on, the 4-11 Gunn would dribble around the perimeter, forced the Lady Wildcats out and then make a spectacular move to the basket. She sank 12 of 18 shots from the floor and 5 of 7 free throws for the game.
"We didn't get a lot of good help [defensively]," Brandon said. "When [Gunn] gets in the paint, we got to rotate quicker, help and make her kick it out and make someone else beat us and we didn't do a very good job of rotating and helping. She gets eight feet from the rim, we're in trouble and that's what happened, she took it all the way to the hole on us.
"We went to a trap and that helped a little in turning things a little, pushed our offense out a little bit. Things were shaping up a little bit, but the damage had been done...Everytime we sparked a little bit, we shot ourselves in the foot."
Senior Sara Williams, who scored 14 points in her basketball finale, sank one of her three 3-pointers to bring the Central into a 33-33 tie. But Rakelle Riley countered with a driving layup on the other end. Gunn ended the third quarter with back-to-back layups for a 44-37 lead.
But Central, whose seniors were part of three District 9-AAA and Region 5-AAA title teams in addition to the state crown, answered every challenge. Even after Jenkins fouled out with 3:18 left with 21 points [including 13-of-13 from the free-throw line], the Lady Wildcats found a way as Williams scored a layup, senior Lauren Farmer a three-pointer to bring the hosts within one and sophomore Hassell a layup to tie the score 57-57 with 32.1 seconds left.
Hassell, a sophomore, threw in 13 points while classmate Lauren Wasson scored six, Farmer three and Chelsea Burroughs a free throw.
"Our seniors have been here a long time and I guess if you coach long enough, you're going to run into things like this," Brandon said as he slumped into a chair in tears.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at email@example.com.