UC ladies’ early woes too much to conquer

UC ladies’ early woes too much to conquer
UC ladies’ early woes too much to conquer
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
MURFREESBORO — One bad apple didn’t spoil the whole bushel for Union City.
It did, however, ruin the Lady Tornadoes’ chances at a state championship.
UC could never fully recover from a dismal first half in which it scored just four points and eventually saw its season end at the hands of Jackson County, 36-26, in the semifinals of the Class 1A girls’ state tournament Friday night.
While disappointing, the verdict surely did nothing to diminish the history-making feat of the Lady Twisters, who advanced to a TSSAA-santioned state tourney for the first time in school history.
Union City ended its 2011-12 season with 22 victories, second most in the modern era of the program.
“Sure we’re disappointed, because we know we could’ve played better,” UC head coach Eddie Suitor said afterward. “At the same time, I’m proud of what the girls accomplished during the season as a whole.
“It’s hard to break through and get here, but I thought we were deserving.”
A woeful first-half shooting exhibition that is believed to have produced the lowest point total by a team in the 5-of-5 era dug the Lady Twisters a significant hole that proved to be too deep against a JC club that was denied the program’s eighth state title in a Saturday loss to Clay County.
But just barely.
Union City made just 2-of-19 field goals over the first two quarters and failed to tally a single point in the second period, when the Lady Blue Devils took an 18-4 lead into the intermission.
Big 6-foot-4 Makenzie Hensley made life miserable for anyone in a Purple and Gold uniform who dared drive the lane — particularly Amber Fair and Jackie Hudson, the Lady Tornadoes’ usually-strong inside tandem who combined to shoot 1-of-12.
UC looked like a totally different unit to open the second half, though, Fair scoring twice, Hudson converting a 3-point play, and Kealie Reaves turning a turnover into a bucket for a run of nine consecutive points to immediately get the Twister girls back into contention at 18-13 with the third period not three minutes old.
Continued escalated defensive pressure applied by Reaves and Anna Moore forced Jackson County into eight turnovers in the frame with another Reaves theft and bucket, two free throws by Tory Reedy, and a hoop from Fair drawing the locals within a single point (20-19) with 22 seconds left in the third.
Union City hit 6-of-12 field goal tries in all in the stanza to better its paltry shooting percentage and entered the stretch run down just 22-19.
Unfortunately, the Tornado girls reverted to their earlier form, though, missing their first six attempts before Reedy hit a shot with 3:44 to play to account for UC’s first points of the segment. By then, the Lady Blue Devils had opened a seven-point (26-19) advantage.
Two misses and a pair of turnovers kept the Lady Twisters from getting closer and Hudson’s field goal with 20 seconds left accounted for Union City’s only other made try in a quarter in which it went just 2-of-15 shooting-wise.
“We tightened up, I thought,” Suiter said of his squad’s early offensive struggles. “Jackson County’s defense — their positioning and their length — caused us some problems. It was hard to score against their big girl inside. Because she took up so much space, she didn’t leave us with a lot of room or lanes to attack.
“We got ourselves back in it with our defense. We had to push them out on the floor with their offense so they’d start further from the basket, and we created some transition opportunities for ourselves. They didn’t shoot a lot of jump shots, and we needed them to in order to get some long kicks on some shots and get us going with our transition game.”
Suiter was most pleased that his troops never quit — even after such a depressing first-half shooting showing.
“I expected to see a lot of dropped heads at halftime, but I didn’t,” the coach continued. “These girls have been in a lot of new situations all season and they’ve responded most every time.
“Nothing’s been given to them. It would’ve been easy for them to drop their heads, but they didn’t.”
No UC player scored in double figures, though Fair was the closest with nine. She tied Hensley in rebounding with 10.
The Lady Tornadoes ended up shooing 21.7 percent (10-of-46) from the field, including 0-for-14 from 3-point range.
Suiter did have special words of praise for his lone senior starter, Anna Moore.
“Anna is a warrior. She played with great heart,” Suiter concluded. “She wasn’t ever going to be the most talented player on the floor, but nobody was ever going to outwork her.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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