Sevierville, TN — Oh, those tricky Powell Panthers.
Heritage rallied from a 15-point halftime deficit to Bearden to make it interesting in the District 4AAA championship game Tuesday night at Sevier County High School.
The Lady Bulldogs’ big lead would prove too much to overcome, with Bearden holding off a Heritage charge for a 48-38 win and the title. The celebration was somewhat muted, though, the Lady Mountaineers disappointment lessened, with news of a huge upset in Clinton.
With Heritage still battling to close late, word came over the public address that Powell had knocked off Oak Ridge, the state’s third-ranked team in Class AAA, for the District 3AAA crown. The loss by the nationally-ranked Lady Wildcats means everything when it comes to the Region 2AAA tournament, which begins on Friday.
The Powell win drops Oak Ridge into the same side of the region bracket with Bearden, with the two schools meeting in an elimination game next week at Knox West should both advance. The Lady Bulldogs host Campbell County on Friday, with the Lady Wildcats hosting Farragut.
The Powell shocker had even bigger implications for Blount County’s two remaining girls teams. The Lady Mountaineers host Clinton on Friday. The Lady Rebels, who fell, 62-56, to Farragut in Tuesday’s 4AAA consolation, must travel to Powell. Should Heritage and Maryville both advance, a third meeting this season would come in Monday’s region semifinal.
Only the region champion and runner up advance to sectional play, a victory there earning a berth in the state tournament.
All tipoffs Friday are 7 p.m.
While avoiding a possible matchup with the Lady Wildcats until the region championship game has its benefits, the Lady Mountaineers and Lady Rebels must both first get there. Neither looked like its going to be easy on Tuesday.
Trailing, 11-8, after a quarter, Heritage fell victim to a disastrous second period as a Bearden raced out to a 20-point lead. Tournament most valuable player Mary Hirst dominated around the basket, swatting away nine Lady Mountaineer shots on the night. Heritage failed to find any rhythm offensively as a consequence, leaving too big of a hole to exit in the second half.
Lady Mountaineer junior Lauren Burnette paced all scorers on the night with 15 points, with Taylor Cravanas and Ellen Smith out front for the Lady Bulldogs with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
The Lady Rebels and Lady Mountaineers both possess the firepower to reach a Monday showdown. Maryville got three treys from senior Mariah Lawrence and another from fellow senior Bailie Roberts in the final minute to make it interesting Tuesday. The Lady Rebels struggled all game, though, to get center Torrie Vaught involved. Roberts, Vaught and Lawrence form a potentially lethal inside/outside/wing trio. Roberts finished with a game-high 28 points on Tuesday.
The Lady Mountaineers possess an equally deadly threesome in Burnette, senior point guard Morgan Thomas and freshman sensation Miranda Maples, who fouled out Tuesday with three minutes remaining, Heritage having trimmed the deficit to five.
The Powell upset can prove most useful, but only if the Lady Mountaineers and Lady Rebels really come to play on Friday.
“They (the Lady Bulldogs) were hustling down the court a lot better than us,” Maples said. “We felt sluggish.”
A seemingly easier road through the region could be just the thing to quicken the step.