By MIKE HUTCHENS
MURFREESBORO — It was a pretty ‘Fair’ experience for Union City’s first trip to the TSSAA-sponsored state tournament.
Amber Fair scored a game-high 25 points in just 11 minutes of play Thursday to lead the Lady Tornadoes to a history-making 56-33 victory over Wartburg in Class 1A quarterfinals.
The win puts UC (22-10) into today’s 5:30 p.m. second semifinal against third-ranked and seven-time state champion Jackson County (28-6), a 52-35 victor over Loretto in the last of Thursday’s four first-round games.
Union City, which counts a 1925 championship and six other appearances in non-sanctioned or invitational tourneys prior to the state’s governing body putting its name on the current state event in 1958, looked right at home on Murphy’s Center big stage against Wartburg.
The Lady Twisters won for the 15th time in their last 18 outings by scoring nine of the game’s first 10 points to seize an early advantage, then blitzed the Bulldog girls with a run of 17 unanswered points from midway through the second period until halfway through the third.
Fair, despite sitting for eight minutes in the first half after picking up two early fouls, continued her postseason dominance by making 8-of-12 shots from the field and 8-of-13 more from the charity stripe before going to the bench with a little less than three minutes left and her team comfortably ahead.
Sophomore classmate Jackie Hudson posted a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds) and took over the scoring load when Fair was on the pines, while guards Anna Moore and Kealie Reaves were table-setters with excellent perimeter defensive pressure.
Point-forward Tori Reedy provided both calmness and poise gained from a previous state tournament experience during her freshman season at Gibson County two years ago, finishing with six points and eight rebounds.
UC head coach Eddie Suiter was not surprised that his young troops — that number just two seniors — handled the excitement of the first-time venture.
“They had the same ‘face’ on before the game that they’ve had on the last month or so,” Suiter said. “I’m sure there were a little nerves, but everybody continued doing their job — Amber scored with three people hanging on her, Jackie rebounded and took care of the ball, Anna and Kealie pressured their guards out front, and Tori did all the little things that do not always show up on the stat sheet.
“I think not getting overwhelmed by where we were early was huge. We came out, got the lead and played our game. We never let nervousness become an issue.”
Hudson, whom Suiter said “was as aggressive offensively as she’s been in a long time,” began attacking the glass immediately after the opening tip and twice converted stickbacks in the first two minutes. Fair converted a pair of steals into transition buckets — the second becoming a 3-point play to make it 9-1 before she was whistled for her second foul with just over 21⁄2 minutes having elapsed.
Afterward Wartburg, which turned the ball over eight times in the opening frame and did not make a field goal until the 4:13 mark, finally scored on consecutive possessions twice in the second period to cut what once was a 10-point Union City lead to 19-16 at the halfway point.
That’s when the Lady Tornadoes then reeled off 17 unanswered markers, over the next eight minutes — Fair, who re-entered the contest, accounting for nine of those points and Moore making three free throws and a 3-pointer just before intermission that made it 29-16.
Fair made good on another 3-point play and hit two charities to open the second half before Hudson also sank a pair of foul shots to make it 36-16 with barely two minutes having gone by in the third stanza.
Wartburg (22-5) showed brief signs of life early in the fourth frame when Kristie Phillips made successive triples to reduce the difference to 14 (41-27), but Fair drained a trey herself, went end-to-end for another bucket and Reedy buried a longball to immediately quiet the uprising.
“Our guards (Moore and Reaves) really did a good job in the early going, I thought,” Suiter added. “We didn’t really have a lot of steals like we did in the sectional game against Adamsville when we just took the ball away from them, but we bothered them some and they made some turnovers.”
UC also “bothered” Wartburg’s shooters as they made just 27.5 percent of its attempts (14-of-51), including 3-of-23 from 3-point range.
Phillips was the Lady Bulldogs’ lone double-figure scorer with 11.
1A GIRLS’ QUARTERFINALS
UNION CITY (22-10)
Amber Fair 8-12 8-13 25, Jackie Hudson 5-14 3-6 13, Moore 1-2 3-3 6, Reedy 2-6 1-2 6, Reaves 0-1 2-3 2, Kaleigh Bynum 1-2 0-0 2, R. Fair 0-0 1-2 1, Skinner 0-1-1-2 1, Alexander 0-1 0-0 0, Youngblood 0-1 0-0 0, Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Davis 0-0 0-0 0, White 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-40 19-31 56
Kristie Phillips 4-15 0-0 11, Kidd 3-7 0-0 6, Davidson 2-7 1-2 5, Hamby 2-5 0-0 4, Laughter 1-3 1-2 3, Lowe 1-5 0-0 2, Hurtt 1-5 0-0 2, T. Phillips 0-2 0-0 0, Barnett 0-1 0-0 0, Carter 0-1 0-0 0, Ehlers 0-0 0-0 0, Kilby 0-0 0-0 0, Mathis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-51 2-4 33.
UC 15 14 11 16 — 56
W 5 11 5 12 — 33
3-Point Goals — Union City 3-6 (Fair 1-1, Moore 1-2, Reedy 1-2, Youngblood 0-1), Wartburg 3-23 (K. Phillips 3-11, Hurtt 0-4, Kidd 0-3, Davidson 0-2, Lowe 0-2, Barnett 0-1). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Union City 42 (Hudson 11), Wartburg 26 (Hamby 6). Assists — Union City 8 (Hudson 4), Wartburg 7 (Kidd 2). Total Fouls — Union City 9, Wartburg 20.
Published in The Messenger 3.9.12