The biggest thing about becoming the first Maryville Christian School girls team to win a middle school championship?
“After we won, we got congratulated by a nun,” tournament most valuable player Hunter Amos said.
Taylor Burns knocked down a long 3-pointer “from like a mile out” with eight seconds left, and, after a tough defensive stand at the other end, the Lady Eagles defeated St. Mary’s, 32-31, in the championship game of the Knoxville Interscholastic League small division tournament late last month.
The last eight seconds were agonizing as St. Mary’s got off three shots, Maryville Christian coach Jamie McGinley said.
“Once the buzzer rang, everybody paused,” she said. “It was one of those moments where everybody wasn’t screaming yet. It was truly a mosh pit afterward.”
McGinley led the stampede.
“She picked me up, basically,” said Burns, an all-tournament selection along with Amos and fellow eighth-grader Skylar Wiggins.
The title was sweetened by how the Lady Eagles had won it and how far they’ve come as a group, McGinley said.
Four years ago as fourth graders, not one of them was 5 feet tall. They were the team everybody wanted to play. Each trip to the tournament, beginning with their elementary teams, was one and done.
“We never made it past the first round,” Wiggins said.
They were tough, though.
“As sixth- and seventh-graders, their size and age were obstacles too great to overcome,” McGinley said, “but you have never seen a team box out, hustle — go all out like this bunch. This year, with the addition of Rachel Hamby and Taylor Hurley, the girls put all of their energy into going for first place.”
Entering as the tournament’s No. 2 seed, it all came together for the Lady Eagles. When St. Mary’s knocked off the top seed in the semifinals, the way was clear. When they got their chance, the Lady Eagles didn’t waste it.
More defensive minded during the season, Amos sprang to life during the tournament to lead Maryville Christian in scoring. Burns and Wiggins, all-conference selections during the regular season, remained at the top of their game. Whenever the Lady Eagles needed a lift, McGinley said, someone was there to provide one.
“I was happy for us,” McGinley said. “No (MCS middle school) girls team has gotten close. The girls have paid their dues. The biggest thing is we won as a team. Every night, it was a different person scoring.”