By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Lady Rebels earned a bye entering the tournament finishing second during the regular season. TRA survived a scare in the quarterfinals beating Memphis Catholic 41-40. That victory secured a Sub-State for the Lady Rebels.
It was onto the Regional Tournament site of ECS to take on the No. 1 seeded Northpoint Lady Trojans. TRA suffered a two-point deficit to Northpoint during the regular season. But the Regional Semifinal was a different story with the Lady Trojans overwhelming TRA 40-18.
The Lady Rebels took to the court Saturday afternoon to take on the Harding Academy Lady Lions with third-place on the line. TRA bounced back well from the Northpoint defeat but came up short to Harding 47-43.
“One thing that we talked about yesterday, learning from Thursday,” TRA Head Coach Cameron Pridemore said. “I think we did a good job. It’s about how you respond to adversity. Thursday was a tough night. We took one on the chin Thursday night.
“Everything we set out to do is still there,” he continued. “I felt like we responded well. We were still there and upbeat. The girls still had a confidence about themselves, still believed. None of that wavered and I was proud of them for that. I really felt like we came out and did a good job of competing. I feel like we responded to Thursday as far as that.”
The tempo was set early Saturday in the ECS Gymnasium that the third-place game would be tight. Pridemore employed his Lady Rebels to defend Lady Lion center Sage Hawley with a player in front and behind her.
Harding had to adjust by using guards like Jacaila Davis, Hailey Smith, Makayla Summerall and Alexandria Ellis to make shots. Davis drilled a triple early to make the score 5-2.
TRA grabbed a quick lead courtesy of Brianna Hall hitting a floater in the lane and then making a steal leading to a layup.
Harding closed the quarter outscoring TRA 10-7 to take a 15-13 lead entering the second quarter. The opening moments of the second period saw three ties.
After TRA guard Megan Sanfratello hit a jumper to deadlock the game at 19-19, Harding proceeded with a 10-3 run sparked by a Davis three-pointer.
Harding Head Coach Becky Starks added some more size by placing Nicole Savage into the lineup with Hawley. The twin tower approach allowed the Lady Lions to seize control of the lane on defense.
On offense Savage made a shot in the post making the score 24-20.
Harding closed the first half with a three-pointer from Summerall to go ahead 29-22.
“It was tough on the boards today,” Pridemore noted. “That girl is tall (Hawley). She made it difficult. And they made some tough shots. Some girls who don’t normally score a lot for them stepped up and made shots today.
“I think we did a good job on a couple of their shooters taking them away,” he added. “We would take away one shooter and another girl would step up and knock another one down. They had some girls really step up today and they made some tough shots during some tough moments.”
TRA created some tough moments for Harding in the third quarter outscoring the Lady Lions 11-6. After Ellis hit a shot to make the score 31-22, TRA went on a 11-2 run.
Sanfratello started the run with a triple. Lady Rebel Abby West made a steal leading to a breakaway layup.
TRA’s Jordan Allen contributed by drawing fouls and making 3 of 4 free throws. The Lady Rebels went 9 of 18 from the stripe throughout the game.
When West nailed a jumper to deadlock the game at 33-33, Harding closed out the period with the final four points coming from a Summerall drive to rim and Hawley put-back bucket.
Harding’s 37-33 advantage grew to 47-41 late in the fourth quarter. TRA got into foul trouble and faded at the end having to settle for fourth place.
“We’ll be playing the Middle Region’s No. 2 seed on Tuesday, which is probably going to be CPA or Franklin Road,” Pridemore concluded. “If we go on the road and win that, then you’re going on the road to Knoxville Friday. So a lot of traveling. But they’re games, even with a couple of losses, our attitude is still there. We’ve remained upbeat. They’re games we can go on the road, compete in and give ourselves a chance to win.”