By KEVIN WEAKS
Union City’s next trip will be a very short one.
Pulling perhaps the upset of the postseason by knocking off the state’s No. 1-ranked team, the Lady Tornadoes secured one last home game for the 2011-12 season.
UC topped Lake County 58-55 in the Region 7A Tournament championship game Tuesday night in Trenton and will now play the school’s first-ever sectional game at home on Saturday.
Tip-off for UC’s substate contest will be 7 p.m. and tickets are $7.
“It’s good to be home,” UC head coach Eddie Suiter said. “We had a good crowd and, hopefully, we can get that — plus some — to come out Saturday. It’s not a long trip, obviously. We don’t know who we’re going to play, but we want to make sure our crowd is a presence for whoever comes into our place.”
UC will know its opponent tonight when Madison Academic and Adamsville play at Trinity Christian in the Region 8 title game.
Amber Fair scored a game-high 30 points Tuesday to earn tournament Most Valuable Player honors, showing an ever-increasing set of skills.
Posting up for strong pivot moves into the lane and pulling up for some middle-range baskets, Fair was consistent with six points in the first and third quarters, eight in the second and 10 in the fourth. She was 8-of-10 at the free throw line, scoring the game’s final point on a free toss with five seconds remaining in the game.
“She did something tonight that she hasn’t done much of this year,” Suiter said. “We’ve taken her from being just a 3-point shooter last year and half of this year to being not just a force inside but a dominant force, someone that everybody has a game plan for and tries to stop. She made a couple of nice two-dribble pull-ups tonight. She has that in her game but hasn’t felt comfortable doing it, and we haven’t asked her to do that because we like to shoot threes and get it to the rim. We don’t talk much about mid-range.”
While Fair’s point total outdid the rest of her teammates combined, UC’s win certainly was not a one-person show.
Anna Moore hit Union City’s only 3-pointers of the game, three in all. She knocked down a 20-footer from the left corner to give the Lady Twisters a nine-point, 36-27 lead with 5:27 to play in the third quarter, and then she popped again from the same spot to break a 48-all tie with two minutes to play in the game.
The Lady Falcons tied the game five times in the second half, including four times in the fourth quarter, but not again after getting it even at 48 on a putback by Carnation Hart with 2:26 to play.
“(Amber) wanted this game, as did all of the girls, obviously,” Suiter said. “Anna Moore hitting threes, Kaleigh Bynum, a girl that doesn’t even jump, coming out to block a three to keep us in the lead. Just a lot of big plays out of big-time players.”
That team effort is has been building throughout the second half of the season, leading to Tuesday’s outcome.
“I think we’re playing good basketball right now,” Suiter said. “The kids are playing together. There’s no me me me, There’s no worry of who gets what. It’s just a lot of doing what it takes to win. And, that’s good from this bunch. It’s a long process to get there and, hopefully, we’ll maintain that as we go.”
Tuesday night’s battle was fitting of the two teams that have developed into the region’s heavyweights this season.
Lake County had reeled off 18 straight wins since losing to Perry County Central (Ky.) in the championship game of the Daytona Beach Sunshine Classic on Dec. 30. Union City, meanwhile, had won 12 of its 15 games since flipping the calendar to 2012. All three of those losses were to Lake County.
But, in the fourth meeting, the Lady Tornadoes finally put all phases of the game plan together. Using a 2-3 zone that slowed the Falcons to some degree and shortened the game, UC was mostly effective in keeping Lake County from getting into a fullcourt game.
“We’ve zoned them 14 of the 16 quarters we’ve played,” Suiter said. “The first time, we covered our areas, but we weren’t very enthusiastic sometimes. Then, the next couple of times, we had the energy but got out of position. Tonight, we put both those things together. The kids played their areas, and we got some good ball pressure because our kids played their areas with enthusiasm and guarded their area instead of just being there.
“That’s big for us, to get kids in the right spots with our height and length, especially along the back line. We have kids who can guard the block and still, in two or three steps, contest a 3-point shot. And, that’s all we ask of our kids — contest every shot and rebound.”
The teams were tied once and swapped leads four times in the game’s first five minutes, and then twice in the second period, UC twice went ahead by four points on baskets inside from Bynum, who had six of her eight points in that frame.
But, a 3-pointer by T.T. Flowers followed by an 8-footer along the baseline from Shamone Pearson had the Lady Falcons back ahead at 20-19 with 3:46 to play in the half.
The teams traded leads two more times, the final time at 2:12 when Fair’s layup started an 8-2 run that had Union City up 29-24 at the half.
Union City looked to be on the verge of blowing open the game early in the third quarter after twice building a nine-point advantage. Lake County rallied, however, by knocking down four triples, including two by Pearson.
Pearson’s second trey tied the game at 40 with two seconds remaining in the third, and then the Lady Falcons tied it four more times in the fourth.
Two baskets and two free throws from Fair and another field goal from Bynum kept UC from falling behind, and then Moore put the Lady Tornadoes ahead for good with her third 3-pointer.
UC won it at the free throw line, despite missing four times — twice on the front end of the bonus — in the final 40 seconds. Those were UC’s only four misses of the night, the team finishing 11-of-15.
Reedy gave UC a four-point 57-53 lead on a freebie with 15 seconds remaining, and then Fair scored once at the line following a basket by Flowers.
Flowers led LC with 17 points, while Pearson and Tiana Gray each had 12.
Published in The Messenger 2.29.12