Anakin was a kid when they found him.
If Tara Shields isn’t using the force, it’s something real close.
The Maryville Christian School fifth-grader pumped in baskets with an ease that belied her years, and the Lady Eagles won their second consecutive Blount County Elementary School Basketball Tournament championship with a 28-27 win over Montvale last Thursday night at Heritage Middle School.
Winning back to back National Conference championships is “sensational,” Lady Eagle fifth-grader Christina White said.
For Shields, who averaged 20.3 points per game over the three days, the Maryville Christian repeat was “awesome!”
“I’m just glad we had the honor to come out here and play,” she said.
Shields finished with a game-high 21 points, her last basket, coming on a soft floater along the baseline, staking the Lady Eagles to a 28-15 lead with four minutes remaining.
Montvale closed late against Lady Eagle reserves.
Even with the dynamic Shields, defending last year’s championship was never something the Lady Eagles took lightly, head coach Becky Worde said.
“I honestly thought, at the first practice this year, there was no way we could repeat this,” she said. “When you have Tara, that’s a lot to build around.”
Rachel Parker finished with six points for the champs, with Katie Wolf tossing in 15 for Montvale. Libby Kate Gardner had 10 for the Lady Knights. Maryville Christian took control with big first and third quarters, using defense and a couple of outbursts from Shields to pull away.
In her last game as an elementary school player, Shields opened with 10 first-quarter points, with Parker adding a deuce. Maryville Christian led, 12-4 after six minutes.
Montvale trimmed the deficit to 15-9 at the half. Shields buried a deep 3-pointer from the right side at the third quarter horn, with Parker adding four points in the period, and the Lady Eagles led, 26-15, to start the fourth.
National Conference boys
Rockford 28, Middlesettlements 19
Each time the Tigers tried to pull away the first three quarters, the Settlers battled right back.
Finally, with five minutes to play, Rockford put together a run Middlesettlements was unable to answer.
Elijah Davis and Dustin Richardson connected for back-to-back layups, and the Tigers closed the game with an 8-2 run to claim the tournament’s big-schools championship only a year after Rockford finished the season in last place.
The difference, first-year Rockford coach Chad Tipton said, was making sure the Tigers didn’t forget to have some fun out there.
“I’ve told them all along to smile,” he said. “Have fun and smile and don’t let your emotions take control. They grown up a lot since the start of the year. At the start of the year, we struggled mentally.
“Middlesettlements was a tough game. Three weeks ago, we might not have pulled through, but we were mentally strong tonight.”
Davis paced a balanced night for the champions with 10 points as the Tigers led, 10-8, at the half. Dustin Clabough finished with eight points, Richardson six, Jasper Erkart and Noah Humphrey two each, as Rockford pried open the lead to 20-15 after three quarters.
Logan Cogburn knocked down a 3-pointer en route to leading Middlesettlements with seven points, with David Dennis and Corey Brooks adding six each. The Settlers closed to 20-17 early in the fourth before the Tigers pulled away.
“They were hitting and we weren’t,” Middlesettlements coach Kristi Carpenter Byrd said.
The one run the Settlers needed to wrest control from the Tigers “just never happened,” she said.
American Conference, girls
Alcoa 23, Carpenters 8
Madison Himes popped for a shot jumper in the lane to break a 7-7 tie early in the second half, and Alcoa hit the gas.
Two quarters later, the lead Himes had given the Lady Tornadoes was still standing, Alcoa pulling away from Carpenters Elementary down the stretch in the American Conference championship game last Tuesday night.
The small-schools title in the Blount County Elementary Basketball Tournament was hard-earned, Alcoa coach Tim Troutt said.
“It’s great,” he said. “They worked so hard. The girls put in a lot of effort in practice. This was our goal, to make it to the championship game, and the girls came through.”
Guard Hannah Troutt paced the victors with 11 points as the Lady Tornadoes withstood full-court pressure from Carpenters in the third and fourth quarters to open their lead.
Candace Bolton finished with three for Alcoa, with four others - Madison Davis, Bailey Tipton, Makenzie Thompson and Himes - each accounting for a bucket. Emma Byrd hit a free throw and Troutt buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the champs a 13-7 lead after three quarters.
Troutt’s steal and breakaway basket put the Lady Tornadoes out front, 17-7, with four minutes to play. Zoe Littleton led Carpenters with five points, with Evey Satterfield, two points, and Abby Jones accounting for the Cougar Cubs total.
“We definitely want to tip our hats to Carpenters,” Tim Troutt said. “They gave us a scare.”
American Conference, boys
Madisonville 31, Porter 15
We’ll be hearing from these guys one day.
Trailing 9-6 at the half, Madisonville delivered a dominating display over the last two quarters, overtaking the Panthers with a 25-0 run fueled by a suffocating, full-court press.
Guard Braden Strickland shot layups out of the Madisonville press on the way to finishing with 13 points, with Will Phillips banging home three 3-pointers en route to a game-high 14. Logan McDonald and Austin Harmon had two each for Madisonville, which won the American Conference title in its first year as a program.
Jared McDonald hit a pair of 3s to lead the Panthers with six points on the night. John Pearson had four points, Caleb Woody three and Calvin Keeble two for defending champion Porter. Madisonville held the Panthers scoreless in the third quarter to pull clear.
Madisonville didn’t have a team until former Alcoa High assistant coach Andy Pennington was talked into coaching the squad this summer. To come from nowhere and win it all the first year meant no shortcuts.
“The parents didn’t like how hard I was on them, but the kids listened and they worked hard,” Pennington said.
The Panthers took a regular-season meeting between the teams, Porter’s ability to shoot the 3 a big reason why. Tuesday, with Porter’s halftime lead only three, Pennington said he wanted to make sure the Panthers didn’t get any good looks.
“They weren’t able to get down there and chuck any,” he said. “We got them out of their game.”
Phillips struggled for a half, finishing with two points, before catching fire in the third.
“He (Pennington) said, ‘Shooters shoot. Keep on shooting,’” Phillips said.
The Madisonville press did the rest.
“That’s how we win ball games,” Strickland said.
Once Madisonville took hold of the game’s momentum, there was no getting it back, Porter coach Joe Dalton said.
“They frustrated us and made us speed up,” he said. “They made us play their game, which is what you've got to do.”