Lady Rebels earn payback with thrilling title clincher

Lady Rebels earn payback with thrilling title clincher
Lady Rebels earn payback with thrilling title clincher | Lady Rebels earn payback with thrilling title clincher
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Sports Editor
Nothing like a little revenge to go along with another district tournament championship.
Obion Central got payback for its only loss to a team from Tennessee this season and won the 15th district tourney title in the distinguished history of the girls’ program in the process with a heart-stopping 75-74 overtime victory over Covington Saturday night at Dyersburg.
The 13AA championship was the second straight for the third-ranked Lady Rebels (29-2), who avenged a similar two-point OT setback vs. the Lady Chargers eight nights earlier that snapped OC’s 46-game regular season district winning streak.
And likely nobody enjoyed getting to handle the first-place plaque afterward more than Brandi Goodman.
Goodman, the district’s regular season MVP who didn’t play in that aforementioned Covington loss due to a strained quad muscle, rejected what would’ve been a game-winning shot in the final seconds by the Lady Chargers’ Kamesha Van Pelt, who had driven end-to-end before encountering the OC junior center just inside the lane.
That defensive play came after Goodman had made a pair of free throws with 14.2 seconds remaining in the overtime that provided the ultimate deciding margin.
Her eighth blocked shot finished a stellar stat line that also included team-highs of 23 points and 14 rebounds.
Lady Rebel skipper Lyle LaRue — who then watched Covington get up another shot under heavy defensive pressure from 15 feet that bounced off the rim as the final horn sounded after chasing down Goodman’s deflection — was admittedly numb after watching his team first dominate, then simply survive the wild contest.
“I really don’t know what to say. We were on our way to a 30-point win in the first half and then end up having to fight and claw to win the game in overtime,” said the coach, whose team will now host either 10th-ranked McNairy Central or Chester County in Friday’s first-round Region 7AA Tournament game.
“The same thing that got us the big lead — them not taking care of the basketball — was what got them back in the game when we made some poor decisions and just got careless. Obviously, the foul trouble with Macy (Wright) hurt us, but then when we had to make some big plays when it looked like the game was slipping away from us, we made them. And I think Brandi was in the middle of just about every one of them.”
OC had stormed to a seemingly-commanding lead in the first half, using its fullcourt pressure to harass the Lady Chargers into a dozen turnovers, including a handful of five-second calls.
Two free throws by Brooke Jennings at the 2:12 mark of the first half put Central up 39-20 and came after the county locals had run off 11 consecutive markers, capped by an Ali McEwen bucket. McEwen had nine of her 15 points in the quarter.
The Lady Rebels did most of their damage in the 26-point period from the charity stripe, though — making 16-of-22 free throws over that eight-minute span that saw Jennings and Paige Hicks combine for 11 of those made tosses.
Ahead 43-29 at the intermission, OC experienced its first sign of trouble when Wright — the tournament MVP — was whistled for her third personal and then picked up a technical foul, with 5:40 left, that sent her to the bench.
And Central struggled handling Covington’s version of fullcourt pressure without Wright, as cat-quick guard Precious Harvey scored 13 of her game-high 26 points in that third period to spearhead a rally that narrowed the gap to six points late in the stanza.
The Lady Chargers finally completed their comeback — even with Wright re-entering the contest with just over four minutes to play — when Van Pelt made two free throws to forge a 67-all deadlock with 37 seconds showing in regulation after Goodman was called for a questionable foul on a blocked shot. Both teams then missed chances at winning the game in the waning seconds to force the overtime.
Covington made the first two baskets of the extra frame before Goodman tallied first to tie the count, then put the Rebel girls up 73-71 with 1:13 on the clock. Harvey quickly evened things up again, before Demiah Eaton hit 1-of-2 free throws with 23.8 seconds showing to put the Lady Chargers back up by one after Covington got three shots at the goal, following an Obion Central turnover.
Goodman, who drew five fouls on three Lady Charger post defenders, then was hacked inside less than 10 seconds later and calmly dropped in both free throws that were the game’s final points.
“Foul trouble affected both teams, no doubt,” added LaRue, whose club ended up making 31-of-48 charity tosses to Covington’s 18-of-26. “It changed the way each of us had to play on both ends.
“When we have a chance to catch our breath, we’ll be able to realize what an accomplishment this was. Right now, though, it almost seems unreal.”
Wright and Hicks joined Goodman on the all-district team — voted on by league coaches — while Goodman, Hicks and Jennings were lauded, along with Wright, on the all-tournament team.
LaRue was picked by his peers as coach of the year.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 2.20.12

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