One More

Lady Rebels win away from league title

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By Stefan Cooper
Sports Editor
Blount Today

They’ll play a championship game Friday night at Maryville.

Win, and the Lady Rebels have the District 4AAA regular-season crown all to themselves. The scenario that could come into play with a Sevier County upset isn’t something Meredith Niethammer is considering.

"I’ve been waiting for this since my freshman year," the Lady Rebel junior said. "It’s going to mean a lot to the whole team."
With a win over the Bearettes, Maryville would claim the league regular-season title with an impressive 12-2 mark. A loss, coupled with a Heritage win over William Blount and a Bearden win at South-Doyle, and the Lady Rebels, Lady Mountaineers and Lady Bulldogs would enter postseason with matching, 11-3 district records.

And, it gets better.

Maryville, Heritage and Bearden each split with each other during the regular season, negating the first tie-breaker. A comparison of each team’s record within the district would be next, followed, if necessary, by the drawing of a lucky number, chosen by each of the league’s coaches prior to the season.

Like Niethammer, Maryville coach Kim Bledsoe would rather finish things Friday.

"We’ve talked about this all year," she said. "Taking one step at a time is how we’re going to reach our goals."

Senior Sarah Roberts, who’ll be recognized prior to Friday’s game for scoring the 1,000th point in the Lady Rebel career recently, led Maryville’s balanced attack with 12 points in a 70-24 blistering of Lenoir City on Tuesday. Sophomore Bailie Roberts added 11 points, Niethammer nine and Morgan Cox eight for the Lady Rebels (19-5, 11-2), who put it away with a smothering, 10-minute defensive stop early in the second half.

The Lady Panthers clawed within 34-21 of their hosts on a layup with 4:47 to play in the third. Set ablaze by a Niethammer block soon after, the Lady Rebels proceeded to hold Lenoir City scoreless until three minutes remained in the fourth.

Niethammer, who followed the block with a tie-up and steal on the Lady Panthers next two possessions, seldom looked hurried during the burst.

"That’s not by accident," Bledsoe said. "She sees the next play."

The resulting frenzy was infectious, Sarah Roberts said.

"We all like getting fired up and chasing after the ball," she said.

Displaying the athleticism that’s made her a Division I volleyball prospect, Roberts cut through the Lenoir City defense to ring up eight of her points in the opening quarter. In an age of specialization, Bledsoe said she’s never once asked the dual-sport star to concentrate solely on basketball at the high school level.

"I don’t think with a player like Sarah that would have made any difference," she said. "She always gives 100 percent."

Roberts led Maryville to numerous titles on the volleyball court. The chance to add a basketball crown on Friday means just a little bit more.

"It’s probably more special because this is the last time I’ll get to play basketball on a team," she said.

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