By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
MURFREESBORO — Union City’s calling card defense gave the team a chance to win every time out this season.
When a legitimate offensive threat was part of the mix, the Lady Tornadoes proved to be nearly unbeatable.
The No. 1-ranked Lady Tornadoes’ season-long defensive prowess actually took a backseat to a stellar game on offense in Friday’s 50-32 romp over fourth-ranked Clarkrange that landed UC in the Class 1A state championship game the following afternoon.
Union City shot 58.8 percent in the second half to pull away from the Lady Buffaloes in the semifinals — making half of its 14 2-point attempts and all three 3-point tries.
Troy Reedy, her stamina and overall game considerably improved from the day before after two nights in the hospital and a 13-pound weight loss, tallied 14 of her game-high 19 points in the second half — including a pair of critical treys. She also had seven rebounds and three assists.
Raven Fair continued to emerge as a rising star for UC, scoring 14 points and snatching four steals while not committing a turnover in 30 minutes of playing time.
For the game, the Twister girls shot 46 percent (17-of-37) — easily their best performance on the offensive end of the postseason against quality competition.
Head coach Eddie Suiter took that evaluation a step further.
“It’s the best we’ve played in all phases since the tournaments started,” the UC skipper said. “I tell the girls all the time, if we defend like we’re capable, we can play with anybody. If we defend like we can and make shots, we can beat people by 20 points. Today we made shots and we were able to get the big separation as the game went on.”
Another key factor in the Lady Tornadoes’ impressive showing was their rebounding dominance — an area where they held a commanding 31-16 advantage, including 14-6 on the offensive glass.
“I just thought we were so much more aggressive offensively,” Suiter went on to say. “We were aggressive, and we showed a lot of poise, too.
“No question, you could tell Tory is starting to feel better. Not only did she make some shots, but she looked to take them, too, which wasn’t the case on Thursday. She has a knack for answering big shots made by the other team. The 3-pointer she hit early in the third quarter after they’d made one to start the second half and pulled to within three was huge. Then she made another one, and then a shot off the move on which she was mauled, I thought. All of those were really big.”
Though somewhat lost in the shuffle — for a change — the Lady Tornado defense did its usual bang-up job, limiting Clarkrange to just four first-half field goals and just 36 percent shooting (12-of-33) for the game. The Lady Buffaloes were forced into 16 turnovers, 11 in the second half.
A flurry of 12 unanswered points that started with TauiNeiscia Skinner’s bucket at the first-quarter horn that gave Union City a 6-4 lead was the first sign of the Twisters’ offensive breakout.
Reedy and Fair both drained treys, Reedy added another bucket and Jackie Hudson converted a steal into a layup as UC made 4-of-5 shots to start the second period over a three-minute span to widen the difference to 16-4.
Though their only offensive lull of the contest followed and allowed Clarkrange to get within 16-10 at the half, the Twisters girls again flurried in the third frame after the Lady Buffaloes had gotten to within three via a Cheyenne Shaver trifecta.
A 14-2 run — highlighted by two Reedy 3-pointers, another from Fair and a shot in-close by Kaleigh Bynum — helped Union City pull away to a 30-18 advantage.
Tamara Nettles scored in the opening seconds of the stretch run to give the locals a 32-21 lead, and UC led by double figures the rest of the way.
The winners, who made 11-of-14 free throws in the second half, hit all but two of their 11 attempts in the fourth with Reedy perfect in six tries from the stripe.
“We got people in the right spots tonight and, except for that time there in the second quarter, we didn’t have those long dry spells without making a shot that sometimes make us press and rush what we want to do,” Suiter added. “I just thought we were much more fluid and relaxed offensively that we were on Thursday.”
Hudson’s stat line was again solid with nine points, six rebounds, four steals and three steals. Nettles ripped down a team-high eight boards.
Shaver led Clarkrange (27-9) — which was denied a ninth state title in its program’s illustrious history — with 15 points.
A STATE TOURNAMENT
CLARKRANGE — 32
Cheyenne Shaver 17, Cooper 7, L. Crabtree 5, Rains 3, Pierce 2, Owens, Stephens, Hall, B. Crabtree., Thao, Dailey.
UNION CITY — 50
Tory Reedy 19, Raven Fair 14, Hudson 9, Nettles 4, Bynum 2, Skinner 2, L. Fair, Reaves, Ware, Davis, Youngblood, Young.
C’range 4 6 11 11 — 32
UC 6 10 14 20 — 50
Records: Clarkrange 27-9, Union City 32-3.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 3.11.13