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Hot start elevates calm WHS over Lewis Co.

Hot start elevates calm WHS over Lewis Co.
Hot start elevates calm WHS over Lewis Co. | Westview Lady Chargers, Grace Ann Swaim, Lewis County Lady Panthers, Chynna Helton, Kenley Crowell, Haylee Trull, TSSAA Class AA quarterfinals, Murfreesboro, State Tournament, Amber Rechis, Breanna Pitcher

Drawing a crowd — Westview’s Grace Ann Swaim (center) knifes between Lewis County’s (from left) Chynna Helton, Kenley Crowell and Haylee Trull in the Lady Chargers’ 57-47 quarterfinal win on Thursday. Swaim was named to the All-State Tournament team
Westview’s Lady Chargers proved that big-game experience is truly a benefit competing at the state tournament level.
Westview played like battle-tested veterans from the very tipoff of its 57-47 Class AA state quarterfinal victory over the Lewis County Lady Panthers Thursday morning in the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro. The Lady Chargers (27-8) built a 14-point lead twice in the second quarter and then held off a second-half surge by Lewis County (27-7) for the win.
Lewis County was making its inaugural state tourney appearance in program history, while the Lady Chargers returned all but two of their players from the squad that advanced to the 2009 state tournament semifinals last season.
“Our experience was big. There was a little bit of a different mentality. We knew kind of what to expect,” Westview head coach Sean Stephenson said.
Lewis County head coach Larry Helton agreed. “When you make your first-ever trip to the state tournament, you’re automatically going to have jitters,” the Lady Panther coach said.
The win advanced Westview to the state semifinals for the second consecutive season, this time against McMinn Central, a 65-53 winner over Greeneville in its quarterfinal contest.
Westview amped up the intensity by pressing fullcourt in the first quarter and the strategy paid dividends. The Lady Panthers struggled to get over halfcourt and then had problems getting into an offensive rhythm. The Lady Charger defense forced Lewis County deeper on the perimeter than it was used to playing. As a result, most of its outside shots bounced off the front of the rim. When LC missed, the Lady Chargers were in position to grab the rebounds. For the game, Westview out-rebounded Lewis County, 31-24, led by Grace Ann Swaim’s nine rebounds.
“Any time we out-rebound somebody that gives us a pretty good chance to win,” Stephenson noted.
While the Lady Panthers appeared to be a bundle of nerves early, the Westview girls showed confidence and scorched the nets, connecting on 50 percent of their shots, including a perfect 2-of-2 from 3-point range, in the first quarter. Lewis County connected on only 18 percent (2-of-11) of its shots in the opener, including an 0-for-4 effort from behind the 3-point arch.
Grace Ann Swaim was the catalyst for Westview from the start. The senior forward drove in for a 4-footer to open scoring 26 seconds after the tipoff. She went on to score the final seven WHS points of the first frame. In between, two other Lady Charger seniors contributed. Sara Olds added a driving layup and Amber Rechis drilled a trey to put the Weakley Countians in front 7-2.
Lewis County scored its first-ever state tourney hoop on a stickback by Haylee Trull just less than three minutes into the game.
After Rechis’ trey, Grace Ann Swaim nailed a 3-pointer in transition and added a fastbreak layup to stretch the Westview lead to double digits for the first time at 12-2 with 1:36 remaining in the quarter.
Hannah Hill’s jumper in the paint snapped the WHS 8-0 run, but Grace Ann Swaim concluded scoring in the quarter with a pair of free throws to set the score at 14-4 after a quarter.
“Going in we said it was not about them, it’s about us. Overall, we went out and played really well,” Swaim commented.
Six points from Rechis, a Jacey Sims trey and two Grace Ann Swaim free throws extended Westview’s lead to 14 at 26-12 mid way through the second quarter.
Lewis County got a 3-pointer by Jessica Hinson to bring the gap down to single digits, but Rechis added a step-back 3-ball to push it out to 14 at 33-19 in the half’s final minute. Lewis County got two free throws from Kenley Crowell for a halftime score of 33-21 in Westview’s favor.
“We played a really good first half. Grace Ann and Amber got off to an early start, and that gave us confidence on the defensive end,” Stephenson added.
The Lady Panthers started rolling in the third quarter thanks to a switch to a triangle-and-two defense that clamped down on the WHS scoring duo of Rechis and Grace Ann Swaim.
“I thought we got some good shots in the third quarter. Jacey and Sara both got good looks, they just didn’t go in, but in that situation, you’ve got to find a way to score with second-chance points or free throws. We didn’t get into the press since we didn’t score and they chipped away,” the WHS head coach noted.
By the end of the third, Lewis County had reduced the gap to 38-32.
The Lady Panthers sliced their deficit to four points on three occasions in the fourth, but each time Westview scored to return the margin to six points. Olds had a stickback. Swaim had a driving layup, and Rechis added a jumper.
After a LC miss, Westview’s Breanna Pitcher pulled down an offensive rebound and scored to bump the lead to eight, 46-38, with 3:18 left to play. A Swaim layup extended the lead to double digits again at 48-38.
Chynna Helton drilled a trey for Lewis County, but Pitcher answered with a shot from behind the 3-point arc to regain a 10-point edge with 2:16 left in the game.
“Breanna had a solid game, played well defensively and kept going to the basket,” Stephenson said.
Swaim and Pitcher each hit two free throws in the final 1:46 to help Westview maintain the lead on the way to the 57-47 win.
“That third quarter, we struggled a little bit, but in the fourth quarter, it was our heart and determination that got us through that game,” Swaim said.
Swaim finished with game-highs of 21 points and nine rebounds. Rechis added 17 points, while Pitcher contributed 10 points and seven rebounds.
For Lewis County, Jessica Hinson was the lone double-digit scorer with 11.

TSSAA State Tournament
Class AA Quarterfinals
March 11 at Murfreesboro
Westview (57) — Grace Ann Swaim 21, Amber Rechis 17, Breanna Pitcher 10, Sara Olds 6, Jacey Sims 3.
Lewis County (47) — Jessica Hinson 11, Kenley Crowell 9, Chynna Helton 9, Haylee Trull 8, Tish Baugus 4, Jacie Hinson 2, Allie Henderson 2, Hannah Hill 2.
3-pointers: Westview — Pitcher (2), Rechis (2), Sims, Swaim; Lewis County — Je. Hinson (2), Crowell, Helton.
Records: Westview 27-8, Lewis County 27-7.

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