|Region title earns OC host role in sectional |
|Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2012 7:00 pm |
| By MIKE HUTCHENS |
Messenger Sports Editor
Home is where the heart is.
It’s also where the Obion Central girls will play Saturday’s Class 2A sectional game.
The third-ranked Lady Rebels — spurred on by their legions of loyal fans who packed their side at Dyersburg High School — earned host rights for the next round of postseason play by winning the Region 7AA Tournament championship Wednesday night with a 49-44 victory over Covington.
OC (32-2), which also tied the school record for most wins in a season — set last year — will play before its rabid faithful one final time this year on Saturday when Oakhaven (17-8) visits Troy for a 7 p.m. tip-off. The winner of that matchup will advance to the Class 2A state tournament next week in Murfreesboro
Wednesday’s regional title will be the seventh to be put in the OCCHS girls’ trophy case and marked the third win in four meetings with Covington this season and by the biggest margin of those triumphs. Central will gunning for its 14th appearance in the state tourney on Saturday when it hosts the Lady Hawks, a 74-46 loser to Manassas in the Region 8 championship game in Memphis.
Much like those previous matchups, OC-Covington IV was hotly contested.
Central’s biggest lead was seven, the Lady Chargers’ five points.
It was deadlocked at 42 with less than three minutes to play when OC’s vaunted inside-outside combination of Brandi Goodman and Macy Wright teamed for a sequence of plays to put the Lady Rebels over the top.
Goodman rejected a shot for the 12th time in the contest on the defensive end, setting up an end-to-end transition bucket by Wright, who was fouled while making a layup and converted a 3-point play to give Obion Central a 45-42 lead with 2:35 to go.
After a pair of Covington misses sandwiched an OC turnover, Wright then put a dagger in the hearts of the Lady Chargers when she darted into the lane, scooped up a loose ball and made another layup to make it 47-42 with 42 seconds showing.
Shannon Wiggins — who’d earlier drained a couple of critical second-quarter 3-pointers — then iced the victory when she calmly sank two foul shots with 2.6 ticks left after Central had twice missed bonus chances and Covington had committed a dooming turnover a half-second earlier in the frontcourt with a chance to force overtime.
“We just really get after each other,” a smiling Lady Rebel head coach Lyle LaRue said afterward. “It wasn’t always pretty, and they’re not a real good matchup for us because they have so many fouls to give with their big girls inside against Brandi and because they have enough quickness to pressure our guards.
“I think the big thing was that we designed a defense to keep us out of foul trouble and that allowed us to keep both Brandi and Macy in the game and not on the bench during critical times. That allowed them to be aggressive, and those two plays — one on the defensive end and the other on the offensive end — were aggressive plays that were the difference down the stretch.”
LaRue didn’t hide his pleasure either, at the prospects of hosting Saturday’s sectional game before what likely will be a packed house of Red, White and Blue loyalists.
“We’ve got a Memphis team who is going to get on a bus and ride two hours and play in front of probably 20-times more fans than they’ve ever played in front of. Hopefully, that will be intimidating two them,” the coach said.
Having beaten Covington by one and two points in earlier games, and lost the Charger girls by two, the obvious familiarity with each other caused some unsightly moments in Wednesday’s fourth meeting.
The point total was Central’s third-lowest of the season, and the bump-and-grind defensive nature of the contest never allowed either team to get into an offensive rhythm.
“I know it was a little different than when we played them during the regular season and in the district finals, but I thought overall, it was the best-called game — other than one thing that Covington was allowed to get away with inside — that we’ve had all year,” LaRue claimed. “Obviously that it wasn’t called close helped us, but it helped them, too. They just let us play.”
Central trailed by as much as 11-6 in the first period, but came back to take a 27-21 halftime lead by outscoring the Lady Chargers 17-8 in the second stanza.
The second of Wiggins’ aforementioned two deep 3-balls put OC up 20-19 at the midway mark, and Wright followed with another triple and a slashing bucket to cap a 12-2 surge with 90 seconds left before the intermission. A Paige Hicks blocked shot just prior to the horn allowed the Lady Rebels to exit the floor with a six-point halftime cushion.
Obion Central built its biggest lead at 32-25 before Covington put together its most consistent offensive stretch of the evening, capped by a Precious Harvey trey and a driving bucket that gave the Charger girls the lead (33-32) with 1:30 left in the third frame.
Kamesha Vanpelt’s 3-pointer and a free throw by Leshondra Somerville after the horn to end the period had sounded, left Covington up 37-34 with eight minutes to go.
Hicks hit back-to-back pullup jumpers — the second at the 5:15 mark — to help the Lady Rebs jump back in front by a point and set the stage for the thrilling final minutes.
Wright, who was joined by Goodman and Brooke Jennings on the all-tournament team, scored 18 points to lead Obion Central while Goodman’s final line read: 14 points, 14 rebounds and 12 blocked shots.
Harvey matched Wright’s point total for Covington, which will take a 23-11 record into Saturday’s sectional trip to Manassas (30-3).
LaRue admitted to essentially little familiarity about OC’s Saturday foe, other than they were beaten soundly (73-37) by District 13 member Haywood during a holiday tournament.
“We don’t know a lot about them, other than they played Haywood earlier in the season. I’ll be trying to run down some tape on them and get a game plan together,” he said.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 3.1.12