By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
MURFREESBORO — Down 9-0 barely two minutes into Friday’s Class 2A girls’ semifinal against Stone Memorial, Obion Central never blinked.
And in the end, the Lady Rebels had the look of a state finalist.
OC rebounded from that slow start and eventually put away the Lady Panthers with a run of 11 unanswered points of its own down the stretch to earn a berth in Saturday’s double-A championship game with a 56-47 victory Friday afternoon.
Brandi Goodman both literally and figuratively carried the Rebel girls to the second championship game berth in school history with another in what has become an endless number of double-doubles.
Goodman — the only consistent Obion Central scoring threat in Friday’s contest — finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds despite battling foul issues for a second straight game. She picked up her fourth personal late in the third stanza, but did not foul out until just 33 seconds remained.
Otherwise, the Lady Rebels were without their A-Game on Friday, the remainder of the team other than Goodman (10-for-18) combining to shoot just 11-of-36 (30.5 percent) against a Stone Memorial squad that scored just eight points in the entire first half of its opening round victory over Waverly.
Central head coach Lyle LaRue insisted his troops did not overlook the Lady Panthers, but that SM (23-12) instead outplayed OC in the initial stages.
“We respected them, but they’re a senior-laden team and they took it to us early,” the Lady Rebel skipper said. “We knew their schedule had been tough and that their won/loss record was indicative of how good a team they were.
“We were mentally ready to play, but X’s and O’s-wise, we weren’t. We didn’t get spots covered like we were supposed to, and they got open shots and knocked them down.”
After SM’s opening flurry — during which Obion Central went 0-for-5 from the field and had four turnovers — the Rebel girls gradually made up nearly all of that deficit before the end of the first period.
Ali McEwen scored all seven of her points in the final 3:04 of the period, a 3-pointer a the 22-second mark getting her team within 15-13.
Brooke Jennings opened the second stanza with a triple to give OC its first lead and an old-fashioned 3-point play off a stickback chance by Goodman with just under five minutes left before halftime put Central up for good at 21-18. The lead twice grew to as many as nine points just before the intermission on buckets by Macy Wright and Paige Hicks before standing at 31-25 at the half.
Stone Mountain, which cooled off considerably after its red-hot start, mounted a serious push in the fourth period after back-to-back 3-pointers by Nicole Hassler and Julia Webb that drew the Lady Panthers within 43-40 with 4:25 to go.
OC responded, though, with its most consistent offensive sequence of the night that resulted in points on five of its next six possessions.
Wright, the only other Central player in double figures with 10 points, opened the flurry with a slashing bucket before Goodman tallied twice, the second a 3-point play. Hicks then went end-to-end for a deuce before Shannon Wiggins buried two free throws.
LaRue, who left Good-man in the game after she picked up her fourth foul with 1:44 to go in the third period, said he never thought of putting his star post player on the bench.
“We got put out last year when I tried to bleed the clock down because we had foul trouble in the regional semifinals and I left a couple of kids on the bench too long. I decided to put this one on them and take the heat off me by letting her play,” he said. “That was a choice we made a long time ago, not just for today’s game.”
Stone Memorial, which made just seven second-half field goals, was led by Cox with 13 points.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 3.12.12