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Lady Rebs clear tallest hurdle

Lady Rebs clear tallest hurdle
Lady Rebs clear tallest hurdle

Obion Central’s Olivia Grady trails Westview’s Amber Rechis during the Lady Rebels’ victory on Thursday evening.
One down, two to go.
Needing wins in back-to-back-to-back games to clinch no worse than a share of the District 13AA regular season championship, second-ranked Obion Central took likely the most significant of those steps with a 52-48 victory over No. 9 Westview Thursday night in Martin.
The win was OC’s 11th straight and came against the last team to defeat them — Dec. 30 in the finals of the Martin Lions Club Christmas Tournament, 66-65.
More importantly, however, Central (23-3, 13-1) cleared what is expected to be its most difficult hurdle in securing what it hopes will be at least co-ownership of the 13AA title. Third-ranked and defending Class 2A state champion Gibson County, which defeated Covington 84-44 on Thursday, could end up tied with the Lady Rebels if — like OC — it wins again tonight and Saturday.
Such results would leave Obion Central and GC (23-1, 13-1) deadlocked for the championship and force a coin flip for the top seed in the league’s upcoming tournament, to be hosted by OCCHS and set to begin on Monday. The Messenger will publish a complete bracket in Monday’s edition.
The Lady Rebels won Thursday, though admittedly without one of their better performances and with their second-lowest point output of the season.
Head coach Lyle LaRue put that in perspective immediately afterward while quickly turning his attention to tonight’s home game with Dyersburg and then Saturday’s makeup contest vs.  Ripley.
“A win is a win — especially against a good team — and I told the girls the only way we could blow it is by not showing up against Dyersburg tomorrow night,” the OC skipper said.
“I felt pretty comfortable with about four minutes left, but you’ve got to be able to take care of the basketball and take good shots, and we did neither. We didn’t do a good job of recognizing a couple of things they did against us defensively either, but that’s the coach’s fault. Put that one on me.”
Nonetheless, OC did enough things right, and in a timely manner, to beat the Lady Chargers for the second time in three meetings this season.
The most critical of those good-doings were six straight pressure-packed free throws made by Chassidy Fussell in the final 20 seconds.
The highly-decorated University of Texas signee proved worthy of her many wares by scoring 14 of her game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter when her team needed her the most. She also had 14 rebounds and five assists.
Neither Central — which never trailed in the contest — nor Westview shot the ball well, despite each getting several makeable looks at the basket. OC appeared totally out of sync against a triagle-and-two Lady Charger defense, that chased Fussell and teammate Macy Wright with man defense.
Westview, meanwhile, never could recover from a slow start that saw it trail 7-0 and not make its first field goal until Grace Ann Swaim connected with nearly five minutes gone in the contest.
Central got a bucket from Brandi Goodman late in the first half to match its largest lead of the first two periods at 28-20 and a follow shot by Mackenzie Tucker at 2:40 of the third to equal that cushion. A 3-pointer from Fussell and Tucker’s stickback with 6:05 to play provided Central with its biggest gap, 41-31, the third of the county locals’ double-digit leads.
With the aid of some Lady Rebel carelessness, Westview made a final run. The Lady Chargers got within a single deuce three times in the final half-minute, the last time with 2.1 seconds left on a bucket by Amber Rechis, who led her club with 21 markers.
Fussell, though, who’d actually missed the front end of a one-and-one with 27 ticks showing, then calmly secured the victory by nailing her fifth and sixth consecutive charities with 1.4 seconds left.
Westview 68, OC 53 (B)
The Rebel boys (5-18, 1-13) are streaking in the opposite direction of their girl counterparts as they suffered their 12th consecutive setback.
Unlike in some of their past performances, effort wasn’t the problem on this night.
Poor second-half shooting was.
“We were within 61-50 with about four or five minutes left, and we had about four trips to where we just couldn’t get a shot to fall that would’ve gotten us within seven or eight points and given us momentum,” OC head coach Bill Kail said. “In the first half, it was turnovers. And several of those were unforced. In the second half, we just couldn’t make a shot.
“I can’t fault our effort, though. The kids are just having to play so hard to stay close, then we become fatigued in the second half when we needed a big play.”
Central led briefly in the early going and was tied at 19 in the initial stages of the second frame after Josh Gale’s 3-pointer.
Tanner Noles, who made six of the Rebs’ nine treys and finished tied with Westview’s Will Thompson for game-high scoring honors with 21 points, made a couple of bombs in the opening period to aid the OC cause.
A Charger spurt midway through the second stanza, however, finished off a 26-14 Martin period and gave the hosts a 43-30 halftime lead.
Obion Central got no closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Travis Daniel tallied 13 points to join Noles in double figures for the county locals.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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