Combo perfect for OC ladies

Combo perfect for OC ladies
Combo perfect for OC ladies

Members of the Obion Central girls’ basketball program accept the District 13AA championship plaque on Monday.
DYERSBURG — There was a changing of the guard atop the District 13AA girls’ standings Monday night.
Third-ranked Obion Central dethroned two-time tournament champion and back-to-back state titleist Gibson County, completing a perfect run through both the regular season and tourney bracket with an impressive 66-46 romp over the Lady Pioneers.
The district tournament championship was the first for the Lady Rebels since 2004-05 and 14th in the 49-year history of the tradition-rich program. Additionally, OC’s 31st victory tied a school record for the most wins in a single season, matching the total of the 1985-86 squad that advanced to the state tournament.
Another state tourney trip — which would be the 14th in school annals — would appear to be a realistic goal for these Rebel girls, who put together one of their most complete and impressive performances of the season in winning the 13AA title in convincing fashion.
Central featured the perfect outside/inside complement of offense with Macy Wright scoring a game-high 23 points — many from the perimeter — and Brandi Goodman recording another on a long list of double-doubles with 19 points and 13 rebounds while controlling the post.
The mid-range contributions of Paige Hicks, who joined the double-figure scoring parade with 14 points with buckets from both the perimeter and while slashing to the bucket, were also part of a 55 percent (24-of-44) shooting performance for the Lady Rebs.
Obion Central’s foul shooting — a team weak link (62 percent) despite its 31-3 record — was even stellar, the club hitting 16-of-21 (76.2 percent) as a unit with Wright perfect on all eight of her attempts.
Defensively, OC was just as impressive, using both a zone and gal-to-gal schemes to limit a GC team that had been red-hot from 3-point range to just 6-of-25 (24 percent) from beyond the arc and just five second-half field goals and 15 points after the intermission.
Those facts and figures prompted Obion Central head coach Lyle LaRue to agree that his team responded to the big stage of a tournament championship setting.
“I’d say it was one of our best — probably top three — performances we’ve had this season,” said the second-year Lady Rebel skipper, whose club will host tonight’s Lexington-Bolivar loser in a Region 7-AA quarterfinal game Friday night at 7 in Troy. (A complete bracket will appear in Wednesday’s Messenger.)
LaRue also confessed he’d used not only Gibson County’s recent dominance, but also his squad’s two runnerup finishes in a pair of holiday tournaments as extra motivation for his troops.
“Today in practice, I brought several of the second-place trophies from some of the places where we’ve played and put them at midcourt and asked the girls, ‘Are we going to bring home another runnerup plaque tonight?’” he said.
The Lady Rebels answered LaRue’s challenge with their impressive play on the court.
OC trailed only three times in the contest — and that briefly — never by more than two points.
A pair of Griffin free throws put Central up 22-21 with just under six minutes to go in the second period and was part of a run of eight unanswered points that helped the county locals survive a trio of first-half 3-pointers by Kelly Tyree, and five treys overall by GC.
Wright, who had 13 of her game-high point total over the first two quarters, hit 6-of-6 from the foul line in the second period and made a driving bucket to give Central a 36-31 halftime advantage.
Tyree’s final trifecta of the contest came with 3:42 showing in the third period and drew Gibson County to within 42-36, but that was to be as close as the Lady Pioneers (20-9) would get the rest of the way.
Central then scored the next 12 points with Wright, Goodman and Hicks all tallying a pair of buckets while the Lady Rebel defense and suddenly-cold GC shooting combined to keep the Pioneer girls from scoring for nearly seven minutes.
When Gibson County finally did score again — on a Khadijah Alexander basket with 5:15 to play — it was already 54-38, OC, and essentially over.
“They made 12 3s when we played them the last time (a double-overtime Central win), and we wanted to make them put the ball on the floor and drive rather than shoot from outside,” LaRue said of his defensive game plan. “We wanted to make it a fullcourt game in the first half and we did, and we got them in a little foul trouble along the way.
“Offensively for us, it’s pretty easy to see how much having some success from the perimeter and the outside opens things up on the inside for us. We shot the ball well from the floor, drove it successfully to the basket and did a good job of converting in the post, too.
“We’ve proven we can play both a fullcourt game and a halfcourt game and be successful with both styles.”
The Lady Rebels made a huge haul when the individual accolades were handed out afterward with Goodman named the regular season district most valuable player and joined on the All-13AA team by Wright, Hicks and Mackenzie Tucker. LaRue received the nod from his peers as Coach of the Year.
Goodman, Wright and Hicks also were chosen for the all-tourney team.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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