Like a couple of thoroughbreds coming out of the fourth turn in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, the Green Ridge Lady Tigers and the Tuscumbia Lady Lions swapped the lead over the last several lengths.
Fans drew their collective breath as the two teams neared the wire. Behind nine points from Sammi Unkel, eight from All Tournament Team selection Libby Dove and six from Ragin Dillon, the Green Ridge Lady Tigers wiped out a seven-point deficit to start the fourth quarter and fell just short of the Lady Lions 67-63 in the championship game of the 18th Annual Otterville Holiday Classic Saturday night.
Tuscumbia improved to 8-1 and won their eighth straight. Green Ridge fell to 9-3. The Lady Lions are coached by former Northwest Lady Mustang Coach Kyle Middleton.
Coach Donnie Mayes Lady Tigers showed some resilience, wiping out a 10-point deficit and trailed by seven entering the fourth quarter. They did it by shutting off the Lady Lions’ running game. Dillon, Hali Niceswander and Unkel got Green Ridge on the comeback trail by threading crisp passes through the Tuscumbia zone to Dove and Tournament Most Valuable Player Clare Chamberlin. The two Lady Tiger forwards combined for 39 points, a game-high 25 by Dove and 14 for Chamberlin.
The Lady Tigers got a good supporting cast, as Dillon tallied 13 points and dished out four assists and Unkel added 11 with a huge trey from the left corner in the fourth quarter.
Green Ridge made only eight of 26 free throws in the game. The Lady Tigers were knee deep in foul trouble early. Dove, Niceswander and Unkel had three fouls in the first quarter. By halftime, Dove, Niceswander and Unkel had four. Only Niceswander fouled out, but Green Ridge had three players on the floor with four fouls and three others with three when the final buzzer sounded.
Tuscumbia went to the free throw line 38 times and made 16.
Pressing full court and getting some easy transition baskets, the Lady Lions ran out to an 8-3 lead on a 15-foot jumper by Tristen Patterson
Chamberlin scored two straight baskets and Dove hit one on a beautiful pass from Dillon and Green Ridge trailed 15-9 after the first quarter.
With Dove scoring six early in the second, Chamberlin four and Dillon two, Green Ridge took their first lead at 20-19.
Green Ridge went on a 7-1 run to take a 27-21 lead late in the half. The Lady Tigers kept Tuscumbia from getting into its press and led by seven three times in the second quarter and took a 34-29 lead into the halftime break over the top-seeded Lady Lions.
Tuscumbia tied it 34-34 early in the third.
Green Ridge went cold in the third quarter, had several turnovers and missed tons of free throws. Green Ridge scored just five points in the third quarter, just two by Dove, and trailed 46-39 at the end of three periods.
With every one contributing on offense, and Chamberlin and Dove cleaning the glass and the Lady Tiger guards creating havoc with their press, Green Ridge caught up.
Trailing once by 10 and twice by nine points in the fourth quarter, Dillon hit two straight jumpers to get the game tied 61-61. Tuscumbia went on a 6-2 to pull out the win.
Dove led Green Ridge with 25 points but made just three of 15 free throws. Chamberlin added 14, Dillon 13 and Unkel 11.
In other girls’ games Saturday, Lincoln beat Northwest 35-33 in the consolation final and Otterville beat Slater 33-24 for third place.
Paige Norfleet led Northwest with 11 points. Kendall Walk and Lindsey Blaylock each scored nine Lakota Wiskur had 14 rebounds and Blaylock seven.
There were no scoring stats available for the Otterville Lady Eagles. Otterville’s Hannah Stone was name to the All Tournament Team. Photos by Randy Kirby, Sedalia News Journal.