By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The scouting reports heading into the Sept. 17 District 14-3A showdown between the Munford Lady Cougars and Brighton Lady Cardinals had it too close to call.
It was going to take concentration and timely plays to make the difference. The Lady Cardinals were thought to have the edge in the Tipton County clash playing in the Brighton Gymnasium.
But a large group of Munford High School students made the 5 minute trip from their campus to root on their Lady Cougars. That boost was enough to help Munford outlast Brighton 26-28, 25-23, 21-25, 25-18 and 15-13.
“I would definitely say our fans and crowd over there help make the difference tonight,” Munford Coach Mandy Hopper said, “but mostly the girls. Whenever we needed to refocus, we called a timeout.
“There were a couple of times we were like, ‘Come on you’ve got to make the change over here,’” she added. “We had our leaders Riley Wade and Brianna Bounds. They did a great job of getting them to turnaround and be refocused.”
Both teams were focused in the first set going to extra points. Munford surged out 4-1 behind a pair of kills from Jordan Moore.
Brighton rallied behind solid play from Andi Coulston, Demiyah Gatlin and Mackenzie Winnans to make the score 6-5 in favor the Lady Cardinals.
The Lady Cardinals were ahead 8-6 after an overhead tip from Lauren Baskin. The first set remain close with eight ties. Deadlock at 24-24, Brighton was first to 25 points with a block.
Moore scored on a tip to even the score at 25-25. Moore scored on a spike to regain the advantage for Munford.
Brighton managed to tie the set at 26-26. The Lady Cardinals forced Munford into errors to earn a 28-26 win.
The Lady Cougars brought the heat in the second set jumping out 18-13 with points coming from McKenzie Martin and Averie Yeager.
Brighton didn’t give up easily with Molly Rhinehardt joining forces with teammates Jade Howard and Gatlin to cut int o the Lady Cougar lead.
When Baskin slapped down a spike, Munford’s lead was only 21-17. Moments later Coulston scored on a hit to make the score 22-21 in favor the Lady Cougars.
When Brie Howard executed a hit, the second set was deadlocked at 22-22. Munford woke up and outscored Brighton 3-1 with Yeager scoring the winning point to make the final 25-23.
The crucial third set went to Brighton 25-21. Howard, Winnans and Coulston struck the decisive blows late in that set to give the Lady Cardinals a 2-1 lead in sets.
Munford wasn’t ready to head back to its campus just set. The Lady Cougars erased a Brighton 17-16 lead in the fourth set to win 25-18. During the 9-1 run, Moore dominated at the net with blocks. Riley Wade and Brianna Bounds set teammates like Yeager for critical points.
It was going to take a final fifth set to decide the winner. With the Lady Cougars ahead 11-10, Wade scored on a tip that gave Munford momentum. After a Moore kill, the Lady Cougars were a point away from ultimate victory at 14-11.
Brighton fought back with a couple of points including a Coulston score. With the scoreboard reading 14-13 in favor of Munford, the Lady Cougars worked the ball into a set for Moore.
In midair, Moore leaped into the air and gave the motion for a spike. Seeing how Brighton over committed to block at the net, Moore reverted to a tipping motion to place the ball away from the Lady Cardinals.
Munford was victorious in the clash outscoring Brighton 112-107 on the night.
“You’re talking about somebody who can play all around the court,” Hopper said of Moore. “Strategic, she’s got power and vision around the court. It’s just the knowledge she has of what to do all around the court. She has what it takes to get it in the white box.”
The game between the Tipton County rivals validated that the District 14-3A Tournament to be hosted this year in Munford will be a clash of titans. Dyer County and Arlington will be strong candidates as well to take the title. Hopper said the victory will give her Lady Cougars the mindset they need to be a serious contender.
“It definitely helps their confidence knowing that they’re doing what’s right on the court,” she concluded. “And then we translate that we’ve already had a couple of district loses, when we go play them again. Whatever we did right here, let’s go build on it and see if we can get district wins over there too.”