The Greenback School Lady Cherokees were on the cusp of spoiling the District 2-1A top-ranked Cosby High School Lady Eagles' perfect district record after reclaiming a three-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
After leading by two to start the fourth, Greenback sophomore guard Kierra Bishop drained a three to extend the Lady Cherokees' lead with 4:05 remaining.
A timeout by Cosby proved the difference. The Lady Eagles responded to score 15 unanswered points and turned up the defensive pressure en route to a 48-38 win to improve to 10-0 in district play.
"Well, I felt like we had the lead, but it's two points, it's not a huge thing, and we had a timeout, we talked about being patient and two or three possessions in a row, we took three or four shots and threw it away," Angie Lucier, Greenback head girls basketball coach, said. "Once we lost the lead and when it was tied, we just did not take care of the basketball and do what we needed to do when we had the lead. The same thing happened at Cosby, so it's bad to think you have repeated that."
Limited practice time and game experience the last several weeks are factors Lucier believes hurt her team.
"We've been in the gym between illness and flooding, we've been in the gym probably four times, counting one game in the past 20-something days, so I was real pleased with the effort," she said. "Just mentally, we've got to buckle down and we've got to be able to do the things it takes to win the game down the stretch. In the second half, it caused us to hurry when we didn't need to."
Greenback trailed by one at the end of the first quarter before Cosby found some rhythm offensively to extend the lead to 25-18 at the break.
The Lady Cherokees immediately responded in the third quarter with two opening threes by Anna Morris and Kierra Bishop, followed by consecutive baskets by Lily Morton and Kelsey Lett. Morris and Bishop closed out the quarter with a three and a pair of free throws, respectively, to regain a two-point lead.
"Honestly, yes we lost that game and it really does suck, but the fact that we get to play in the district championship game on Cosby's floor, that makes it easier for us because now we've got a lot more fire, and we lost to them twice by like 10 points or less each game," Morris said. "It'll be a lot easier for us to go up there and win now."
Morris led the Lady Cherokees with 14 points, followed by Bishop with 13. Lucier expects several more players to step up into prominent offensive roles before the start of the District 2-1A tournament this week.
Both players were named to the All-District 2-1A team.
"Offensively, they both had really good nights, and I was really happy for Anna with senior night for things to be falling for her, especially days she's coming off not being well, and she really looked more like herself, knocking down shots, than she has since she's had the flu," Lucier said. "Kiki's really being able to find some open spots and get some good looks, we've just got to get a few more people helping out, they cannot carry the offensive load. They need some other people, and we've got some other girls that can do it, they've just got to believe they can do it."
The Lady Cherokees will play the Washburn Lady Pirates at 4 p.m. Friday at Cosby in the semifinals of the District 2-1A tournament.
"I'm expecting that type of defensive intensity, we've been working on our defense in practice when we've been in here," Lucier said. "I feel like we had switched working on offense a lot, and I felt like that dropped a little bit, so we've been working on that. Also, we're going to be getting a lot of shots, like free throws. We missed a lot of free throws and that possibly would've made a difference. In district tournament time, you've basically already got a lot things in place, you've got to tweak, you've got to work on special situations."
Morris is hopeful for a third rematch against the Lady Eagles for a chance to clinch the District 5-2A tournament championship.
"We definitely learned that they have two top scorers, and our main priority is to try and shut them down," she said. "Each time we've played them, they've still gotten shots off and hit them, so we're going to work off of defense and definitely shut that down."
Boys end season
The Greenback School Cherokees' season came to an end Monday after suffering a close 42-39 loss to the Washburn High School Pirates in the first round of the District 2-1A tournament.
Head coach Bryan Powers could not be reached for comment by News-Herald presstime.
The Cherokees finish the year 2-20 overall and 2-8 in District 2-1A play. Senior forward Hazen Carleton was named to the All-District 2-1A team.