White County’s girls basketball program is one win away from its first region championship in 34 years.
Thanks to a decisive second-quarter scoring run for the Lady Warriors, and West Hall’s offensive struggles, they locked up a 58-51 win in the Region 7-4A tournament semifinals Thursday in Oakwood.
With the win, White County (14-11) will face Marist (20-2) for the region championship at 6 p.m. Saturday at West Hall High.
Regardless of the outcome of the region championship, the Lady Warriors will open the state tournament Feb. 16 in Cleveland.
“It’s going to be exciting having a home game in the playoffs in Cleveland,” White County coach Jarvis Davenport said. “We hope it’s like Friday Night Lights with people putting up signs all over town in Cleveland, trying to get everyone to show up to the game.”
Naomi Crumley drained consecutive 3-pointers to cap a 15-0 scoring run for the Lady Warriors and push its lead to 32-19 with just 3:15 left in the opening half.
Crumley scored 17 of her team-high 22 points in the opening half, while Dasha Cannon scored 12 points for White County. The Lady Warriors’ second-year coach had expectations they could play for region titles thanks to a height advantage over most teams. Now, White County can make it a reality.
“We have tall, athletic girls on this team,” Davenport said. “We’ve talked about this group’s capabilities since Day 1.”
West Hall endured a setback to a second-half rally when senior Anna McKendree fouled out with 4:50 remaining in the game. Right before having to take the bench, McKendree muscled inside for a basket to cut White County’s lead to 54-49 with 5:30 left to play.
Once McKendree exited, the Lady Spartans’ only points were two free throws.
West Hall will face Chestatee in the third-place game on its home floor Saturday. With the loss, the Lady Spartans will open the state tournament with a road game Feb. 16.
Tied 19-19 midway through the second quarter, Crumley hustled to grab a rebound off a missed free throw and put it back in for a basket.
Cannon’s putback at the buzzer sent White County into halftime with a 36-27 lead.
Despite the big hole at the midway point, the Lady Spartans battled back fast, starting with Cadie Shirley’s basket 1:20 into the second half. McKendree hit her first of two third-quarter 3-pointers with 6:15 left to play, cutting the White County lead to four points.
Then McKendree delivered another 3-pointer to put West Hall on front momentarily, 37-36.
White County quickly gained back momentum with Cannon’s first 3-pointer of the second half to reclaim a 41-37 lead. After McKendree completed a 3-point play at the free-throw line for the Lady Spartans with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter, Cannon knocked down another trey for the Lady Warriors.
Aggressive play inside late in the third quarter resulted in a basket by Maddie Futch, then a free throw in the next trip down the floor to put the Warriors up 47-41.
Ellie Gearing knocked down an early fourth-quarter 3 to give the Lady Warriors an eight-point lead, which helped to minimize the damage from back-to-back baskets by McKendree before she left the game.
MARIST GIRLS 43, CHESTATEE 34: Lindsey Caudell had a spirited 24-point effort for Chestatee in the semifinals of the Region 7-4A tournament in Oakwood. Trailing 26-16 late in the third quarter, the Young Harris signee started chipping away at the Marist lead with a 3-pointer to draw within 26-19.
Before the third quarter ended, Caudell hit another basket, as she had 17 of Chestatee’s 21 points through the first three quarters.
Midway through the final quarter, Caudell hit a stepback 3-pointer to get within three points of Marist. Peri Satterfield followed with a basket she tossed underhand across her body while driving across the lane. With 2:45 left to play, Chestatee’s Beth Eddins drained a 3-pointer for Chestatee (11-16) to tie it at 33-all.
In the final two minutes, Marist went to the free throw line five times and made all 10 attempts. Marist (20-2) has now won 10 straight games.
Abby Senay made six of those free throws for Marist, while Maggie Thayer and Riley Donahue each knocked down a pair of shots from the line.
Diarra Oden finished as the leading scorer for Marist with nine points.
With the loss, Chestatee will face West Hall in the third place game at 3 p.m. Saturday in Oakwood. Marist will face White County in the championship at 6 p.m.
MARIST BOYS 51, WHITE COUNTY 42: Cody Gaynes scored a team-high 11 points for the War Eagles. With the win, the Marist plays Blessed Trinity, who defeated West Hall 72-45 in the semifinal, for the region championship at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Oakwood.
Austin Harris scored 18 for the Warriors, while Clay Dockery chipped in 14 points.
With the loss, White County (14-11) will face West Hall in the third-place game at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Oakwood.