By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MEMPHIS – The Tipton-Rosemark Academy Lady Rebels entered Friday afternoon’s Division II-A West Regional Semifinal facing a tall task.
In order to reach the championship game scheduled for the following day on the campus of Lausanne Collegiate School, TRA had to devise a game plan to overcome the 6-foot, 3-inch towers of Emily Howard and Sage Hawley from Harding Academy.
Lady Rebels Head Coach Cameron Pridemore implemented a strategy that limited Howard and Hawley to a combined 10 points. But Howard and Hawley affected enough shots and grabbed crucial rebounds to help the Lady Lions win the contest 48-45.
“We were able to get the shots we wanted,” Pridemore said. “The height is what it is. Their height affected some shots I feel like we usually make inside. We had some other stuff planned like clearing out some space for Brianna and kind of bring the bigger girls outside some a little bit. We were able to do that.
“But the height is what it is,” he continued. “It does affect stuff. Their tall girls are not only tall, but they do a good job of not fouling when they’re in there. They go straight up. So they made it tough on us in there.”
In the first quarter Harding Academy jumped out 5-0 courtesy of a Hadley Horner three-pointer and Howard bucket inside. Brianna Hall got the Lady Rebels on the scoreboard with a basket.
Hall was the only TRA player to score in the opening period, meanwhile the Lady Lions received 8 more points with guard Alexandria Ellis hitting a triple. Harding led 12-4 after one period.
TRA’s offense found more of a rhythm in the second quarter when Mary “Cat” Catherine Turner hit a three-pointer to make the tally 12-7. The Lady Rebels outscored Harding 11-6 in the 8 minutes prior to halftime.
TRA guards Megan Sanfratello and Abby West got into the scoring column. West hit a shot and made a pair of free throws that made the score 16-13 in favor of the Lady Lions.
Right before the halftime horn, TRA’s Eva McIntosh hit a basket that made the scoreboard read 18-15.
Throughout the third quarter Harding got timely shots from offensive rebounds from Howard and Hawley.
Hailey Smith hit one of those baskets with a three-pointer that made the score 21-15.
Hall answered with a triple of her own to make the tally 21-18. Then the Lady Lions proceeded to outscore TRA 10-7 the rest of the period to take a 31-25 advantage into the final quarter.
In the fourth quarter Horner made a three-point play that seemed to give Harding control at 34-25. Later in the period Horner made another bucket making the score 39-28.
Then the Lady Rebels responded with a 10-2 run to trim the deficit to 3 points. Sanfratello hit back-to-back three-pointers during that stretch.
Harding stopped TRA’s momentum with an Ellis layup. Ellis drove to the rim moments later to make the score 47-39.
The Lady Lions had enough defense in the closing seconds to edge the Lady Rebels 48-45 and advance to the championship game.
TRA had to settle for a third-place showdown with a home game on the line in this week’s Sub-State Tournament.
“I told them I was pride of them,” Pridemore said. “We showed a lot of fight. We definitely could have won that game. We were in positions to win that game. We had a couple of breakdowns here and there. We could have definitely won that game.
“But I told them don’t let this affect tomorrow,” he continued. “I told them it’s OK to be disappointed. They’re competitors and I get that. You want the competitiveness. You don’t want it not to matter. But I said, ‘Don’t let it matter so much that it affects tomorrow.’ You’ve still got games to play. That’s the positive that we’ve still got games to learn from.”
Last season the Lady Rebels played in the third-place contest losing in a nail-biter.
“They’re learning how to play in close games,” Pridemore concluded. “Learning how to play in a close game and finish in a close game. Playing in that setting, I think we’re getting at it. It’s going to take games like this to grow and learning how to handle yourself in those end of the game situations.”
USJ won the third-place game Saturday over TRA 49-45.
Both teams advance to Sectional play this week.